Winnipeg firefighters are getting hugs from Gail Asper and Winnipeg taxpayers are getting hosed again.
For the second week in a row we've had to watch a carefully choreographed exercise designed to convince us there's a groundswell of support for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
First, four Crown Corporations handed over one million dollars apiece of money taken from ratepayers who thought they were buying services like car insurance and electricity from government monopolies.
Then, the Winnipeg firefighters union pledged one dollar from each member for five years for the museum, millionaire moocher Gail Asper's vanity project. Between hugs from her, they promised to try and collect the same amount from every firefighter in Manitoba.
Obviously the Firefighters Burn Fund doesn't need the money.
You don't need to be a fire investigator to know something's not kosher here.
In all the smoke and mirrors, is there a smoking gun?
What the ...? What's that?
Is that ...?
The 2007 Speech from the Throne.
It contained this bombshell:
"The provincial government is working with the Asper family, the community and the federal government to obtain capital and operating funding for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Your government has pledged $40 million in the coming year to help establish the first national museum outside of Ottawa."
The inert Opposition asked no questions. But an alert public certainly did.
What $40 million?
The provincial government's contribution had always been pegged at $20 million.
Why, and when, had it doubled? And why?
It took some digging to unearth an answer, but there it is.
Are you sitting down?
An annual report issued at the end of 2004 by The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (gee that name has a familiar ring) contained an update on "Activities and Outcomes."
Under that heading there was a subsection titled "Negotiation of government and Forks North Portage contracts." Note the word "contracts."
And next to it sat the ticking time bomb. (Emphasis ours)
"Federal Govt.---Agreement in place for $30M, other capital funding and operating costs yet to be confirmed."
"Province of Manitoba---Letter committing to 10 % of capital costs on file."
Say what? The NDP committed Manitoba to provide ten percent of the capital costs?
Do the math.
The $40 million commitment in the 2007 Throne Speech means the capital costs are now $400 million.
And that's before a single shovel hits the ground.
Add at least $50 million for an endowment fund to bring 20,000 students to the museum each year and the project is now costing $450 million---before the requisite cost overruns, design changes, and "unexpected" problems.
Capital costs, according to the Friends, includes "site development, building construction, interior furnishings, exhibits and other capital costs."
Now you see why the government is off-loading "contributions" to Crown corporations---to keep them off the government's books and away from scrutiny.
You never know, maybe even the NDP's pet auditor general might start asking questiona about a project headed north of half a billion dollars before the first sod is turned.
The government has given Gail Asper a blank cheque backed with taxpayers' money.
We don't know about you, but we're burning up.