Winnipeg got its 10 seconds of fame on U.S. television this month, and whoever said there's no such thing as bad publicity should be shot.
Just over 10 million people watched How I Met Your Mother on Monday, Feb. 2. They went away with an impression of Winnipeg, and it had nothing to do with energy, spirit or shiny glass buildings.
The episode was titled The Possimpible (the place where the impossible and possible meet, of course).
Robin, currently unemployed, gets a letter telling her that her visa has expired and she has five days to find a job in her field (television) or she has to leave New York City and go back to Canada.
She's frantic, but fails to get even a nibble. Barney, who has a secret crush on Robin, tries to inspire her to keep looking. He describes her fate if she doesn't.
Imagine, he says, you're doing this story on the mayor of Winnipeg's nephew. And you sign off: "Reporting live from the worst place in the world, I'm Robin Scherbatsky. "
She's immediately convinced to give jobhunting in New York another shot.
Owww. 10 million viewers. Still sore.
The Winnipeg Free Press has been doing some good work on the WRHA scandals lately, but it slipped into bad old habits Saturday with its look at oversold Winnipeg development hypejobs such as Waverly West ("It's too soon to call Waverley West a bait-and-switch job…"). Oh, the stories were good at looking at the past, but the reporters stopped short at the obvious next-in-line for their list.
Yes, we're talking about the biggest hype of all - the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Everything they needed to say was already in print in the Feb. 10 story "Museum spinoffs an economic bright spot" by Murray McNeill.
The bloom is clearly off the rose even before construction starts.
"Museum officials also expect to spend at least $265 million to build and equip the new 12-storey facility…" wrote McNeill.
Expect to spend? At least?
Uh oh. Is somebody hinting at something?
"The museum's chief operating officer Patrick O'Reilly said in an interview the final price tag could be higher because construction costs have risen significantly since that cost estimate was calculated in 2004."
The cost of the white elephant is almost FIVE YEARS out of date?
Alarm bells ringing.
Red flags flying.
Dead fish smelling.
Pinocchio noses growing.
We reported last May
that the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights were already desperately trying to cut costs.
The built-in cost overrun contingency fund was evaporating at the rate of $1.5 million a month. And the board of trustees pledged to the Senate to bring the project in on budget.
Translation: expect major, major design changes.
But McNeill's story is a treasure trove of exactly the sort of bait-and-switch hype spotlighted by the team of Kives and Welch.
The museum will spend $27.2 million a year in operating expenditures, said their colleague.
Ohhh? That's $5 million more than the $22 million the federal government planned to spend just a month ago.
The cost of running the museum has gone up almost 25 percent already and there isn't even a hole in the ground.
Maybe they expect to earn five million smackers from, what? Admissions? Merchandise? "Getcha T-shirts here. Team Hutu. Team Tutsi. Twenny dollas each. T-shirts here."
And best of all is this howler: "Then there are the economic benefits that will flow from the museum attracting an anticipated 75,000 new tourists a year."
Nine measley months ago the Winnipeg Free Press was writing:
Museum could lure 200,000 a year
By: Geoff Kirbyson
May 7, 2008
A new report suggests Winnipeg's Canadian Museum for Human Rights could attract more than 200,000 visitors a year.
That means the CMHR now expects only 125,000 of the 2.7 million tourists (not counting locals) to also visit the museum while they're here anyway. That's not even 5 percent, and less when you realize that the museum will be counting on-line visits in their totals.
And about that 75,000 new tourists. We know that 20,000 of them will be high-spending junior high schoolers press-ganged into attending.
So the museum expects to attract 50,000 people a year to Winnipeg?
The Conference Board of Canada predicted that tourist visits to Winnipeg would grow by 4.8 percent in 2008 - without the museum for human rights. That translates into almost 130,000 new visitors.
You don't think the CMHR is trying to claim the normal increase in tourism as their doing, do you? Nahhh. They wouldn't do that. At least, they won't get away with it while we're watching.
One mystery related to the CMHR has been solved.
Two months ago we questioned the inexplicable rush to fabricate an "official groundbreaking." They literally trucked in unfrozen soil and went through the charade of having grinning politicians pick at the alien earth with shovels for the cameras.
"For reasons unknown, Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Winnipeg to participate in the phoney-baloney groundbreaking and, so, officially to turn on the money taps. There's obviously a reason for the pretence that the project has been started before Dec. 31, 2008, even though the private donors have failed to raise their required share of the funding."
Now we know what that was all about.
The "stimulus" budget contained millions upon millions of dollars for
-wait for it -- shovel-ready projects. In order to tap into the largesse, you had to prove you were ready to roll. Hence the literal shovels in the imported ground at the CMHR site.
They can't be honest about the cost.
They can't be honest about the tourist value.
They can't be honest about the government bailout.
That's gonna hurt.