Spencer Herbert and the Alliance for Arts and Culture exposed B.C. Liberal shell game

Yesterday, I wrote a story about the B.C. Liberal government's shell game with arts funding.

In the March 2 budget, Finance Minister Colin Hansen made it  appear like he had restored arts funding to the level that existed in 2008-09.

Back then, the government provided approximately $47.7 million in funding for arts and culture. In this year's budget, the government makes it appear as though $46.1 million has been granted.

However, the Alliance for Arts and Culture's executive director, Amir Ali Alibhai, pointed out that  Hansen achieved this by including $12.2 million in operating  funding for the Royal B.C. Museum in this year's figures.

The Royal B.C. Museum funding wasn't included in the 2008-09 figure of $47.7 million.

Today, the alliance issued a news release noting that if the Royal B.C. Museum funding had been included in the 2008-09 figure, the grand total would have been $63 million.

In effect, this means that the B.C. government has cut arts funding by 27 percent from 2008-09 using an apples-to-apples comparison.

On page 64 of the B.C. government's three-year fiscal plan, there is a breakdown of the $46.1 million in funding for arts and culture in 2010-11.

Arts and Culture program: $3 million

B.C. Arts Council grants $7.9 million

B.C. Arts and Culture Endowment Fund: $1.5 million

Royal B.C. Museum operating grant: $12.2 million

Minister of Housing and Social Development gaming grants: $11.5 million

2010 Sport and Arts Legacy (arts portion): $10 million

GRAND TOTAL: $46.1 million

Last year, the legislative committee on finance and government services recommended that this year's provincial  budget restore arts funding to the level granted in 2008-09.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts budget-estimates document states that $9.4 million will go to the B.C. Arts Council.

As you can from the chart above, the government states in the fiscal plan that $7.9 million will be distributed in grants by the B.C. Arts Council.

NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert said yesterday that the difference  is the  council's administrative costs. And if you add this $1.5 million to the $46.1 million allocated for arts and culture  in the upcoming year, it  nearly equals the exact  amount  of  funding  in 2008-09.

However, there's one big difference: this year's figures include the museum funding, whereas the 2008-09 figures did not include the museum funding.

Somebody in the government hatched this scheme to fool the public into believing that Hansen was implementing the recommendations of the legislative committee on finance and government services.

The alliance and Herbert have flushed out the  true story  by keeping a close  eye on the figures. The arts community owes both of them a debt of gratitude for their diligence.

I think this shabby episode says something about the integrity of Premier Gordon Campbell and his finance minister.

I'm looking forward to seeing the NDP Opposition raise this in question period and in the estimates debates.

And when that day arrives,  let's hope that the men and women in the press gallery are paying attention.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.



Jeff Letain

Mar 5, 2010 at 12:36pm

It has been obvious for along time what the Campbell government is about, so nothing surprises me, not even the fact they keep getting voted in!

Tau Rayne

Mar 5, 2010 at 3:48pm

Thanks for the diligence of Spencer Herbert and the opposition, for keeping track of the numbers and keeping us all informed. The song and dance routine is to be expected with the BC Liberals, but it's always great to know that there's someone there to pull back the curtain and shed light on the facts.