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.