The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It only took five days to flush the truth out of them.

The Black Rod, May 21, 2009
CMHR to Politicians: We Lied. So, Whatcha Gonna Do?

We dissected the corporate plan the Canadian Museum for Human Rights presented to Parliament and crunched the numbers. Looking at construction inflation alone we estimated "... the project could be $37 million in the hole already." Adding in the cost of "greening" the museum we concluded: "Sub-total then, $50 million."

The Winnipeg Free Press, May 26, 2009
Rights museum needs $45 million

By: Kevin Rollason
26/05/2009 3:50 PM
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights needs another $45 million because of escalating construction costs.
Arni Thorsteinson, chairman of the museum's board of trustees, said the budget changed because of a combination of inflationary construction cost hikes, increased material costs, and the drop of the Canadian dollar in the past year.
As well, Thorsteinson said the museum's board also decided they wanted the facility to meet today's green standards.

How about that? It's almost as if we had a mole in the organization. (Psst. Ixnay....ed.)

What a humiliating indictment of every mainstream media outlet in Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun, CJOB radio, CBC radio, CBC television, CTV televison, Global television and the Globe and Mail.

They have each and every one been deliberately ignoring the machinations of Gail Asper and her allies to scam the public purse of hundreds of millions of dollars for her private pet project, the so-called Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Only The Black Rod has been pursuing this story vigorously, and the admission within days of our last story that we've been right all along, validates our citizen journalism and exposes the self-proclaimed professionals.

More than a year ago we flagged all the elements of the scam.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights: Follow the money

We wrote, then, how the proponents of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights knew in 2004 they didn't have the money for the project. We told how they were lowballing the construction costs. And how they misled the Canadian Senate, and by extension the Canadian people, over who would cover any cost overruns.

The MSM ignored the facts.

We predicted that once construction was started, the museum board of directors would begin to admit the huge cost overruns because they would believe it was too late to stop the project. It's been less than a month since the first earth was turned at the museum site.

We noticed in February that their operating costs had gone up by $5 million. The MSM ignored the story for two weeks until museum officials admitted they overlooked payments in lieu of taxes to the city of Winnipeg in their budgeting.

What we didn't know was that the very day we were pouring over the sloppily written corporate plan, with its elementary school errors in addition and subtraction, millionaire panhandler Gail Asper was in Regina begging for spare change.

As the Regina Leader-Post put it:
"Construction work started last autumn, fundraising is in its final stages, and there's even a tentative opening date: 2012, said Gail, who was in Regina Wednesday to meet with prospective donors so as to provide a financial "cushion" for unanticipated costs and to finance future student trips." (Work moving along on Canadian Museum For Human Rights, Will Chabun, Leader-Post, May 20, 2009)

We guess the fundraising didn't go so well; there was no announcement of new money.

And Tuesday morning, the museum reps were spilling their guts to the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

The FP sat on the story until 10 minutes to 4 for some reason.

And the CMHR didn't go public with its budget shortfall until 6 p.m., an odd time indeed for a major announcement.

But no odder than the announcement.

May 26, 2009 19:00 ET
Museum Fundraising Campaign Continues

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - May 26, 2009) - The Board of Trustees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has requested that Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights continue its fundraising efforts and raise an additional $45 million nationally and internationally. Significant inflation since the project was initially announced (as a $265 million project) has increased costs, necessitating the additional fundraising effort.

"The Board of Trustees asked the Friends to continue their efforts to ensure that we build the iconic structure and world-class exhibits expected from this national and international destination and centre for learning," said Arni Thorsteinson, Chair of the CMHR Board. "This project will have important economic benefits for the city, province, and country over the next three years and well beyond. We owe the Friends of the CMHR and their many, many volunteers and donors a great debt of thanks for their tremendous efforts to date."

So the Board of Trustees has asked the group known as Friends of the museum to raise the $45 million to cover the cost overruns.

This, of course, would be the same Friends who have failed to date to raise the private sector's $105 million share of the cost of the museum project.

In fact, over the past 3 years and 4 months, these same Friends haven't been able to raise a total of $45 million for the museum.

But, we guess, hope springs eternal. Especially since they're assuming that construction inflation for the next three years will be zero percent a year.

Otherwise, guess what? They're going to have to raise even more unknown millions.

Nevertheless, it is an advancement over the statement last week by Angela Cassie, Director of Communications and Public Engagement, who said they had a different plan to address cost overruns---they were planning to tap all the "stakeholders", including the three levels of government and additional private donors.

Somebody must have taken Angela aside and told her the facts of life---shut up.

Because they're pretending that they're not going to go to the government funders for more money. They've been playing this game for years, and the MSM has played along with them. But we know different, don't we.

Sooner or later, and we're betting sooner, Gail Asper will come hat in hand to Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It's a national museum. It's iconic. We can't stop now, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Premier, Mr. Prime Minister.

Which is why we need commitments from those government leaders.

That their answer will be, "Yes, Gail, we can stop now. We told GM there was a point we would stop funding them. We told Chrysler. And we're telling you."

Harper has said the federal government won't top up its $100 million commitment, but we know what a politician's word is worth.

We need him on video, on audio and in print saying "this is it. No more." Then if he breaks his word, he will be held accountable on Youtube and in our own election ads and with him every Conservative MP in the province.

Harper's first test will come over the annual operating costs. He pledged $22 million a year. Less than a year later, the museum wants $5 million to $9 million more per year. And we all know that's just the opening gambit.

And Sam Katz must be put on record saying we intend to collect every cent of payment in lieu of taxes from the CMHR. If city councillors are even hinting at a property tax increase, then its obvious we need every dollar we can get. Homeowners shouldn't be taxed to subsidize millionaires.

And Gary Doer. He already slipped Gail Asper an extra $20 million in the '07 budget without telling the public what he intended to do. This year he'll have to explain why he won't refund hinky speeding ticket fines but he will find the money , maybe in the rainy day fund, to cover his best girl's cost overruns on a museum nobody wants.

The plain fact is that the museum backers still don't have a clue what the finished project will cost. They just want a blank cheque.

They say they will only have awarded tenders for 85 percent of the work by the end of November. Even so, they haven't decided yet whether to establish a Guaranteed Maximum Price Contract. Isn't that a sign they expect final costs to be even higher than the bid?

The Auditor General plans a year-end financial audit. Maybe then we'll get some clues as to how accurate the cost estimates appear.

But the truth is that the museum proponents don't care.

They're betting that the deeper the hole, the deeper the pockets.

A Winnipeg architect who posts on internet message boards under the name Trueviking is an avid defender of the CMHR. He let slip the true attitude of the museum backers in this post Tuesday to a critic:

Yesterday, 06:36 PM
suck it up big boy...the party has started and there is nothing you can do about it except cry in your beer....insert red river jig here.

Earlier this month, when only The Black Rod was predicting humongous cost overruns, he responded to our persistent coverage of the CMHR.

05-16-2009, 01:01 PM Human rights museum budget already short
Yesterday, 04:33 AM
we should have two for people who want to follow the construction and discuss the evolution of this incredible project...and one for guys who want to quote black rod, that beacon of un-biassed journalism, and worry that the federal government might have to pay for meaningless cost overruns or the operation of a federal museum, god forbid.

$45 million, plus millions more in operating costs, 'meaningless"?

We're sure former mayoral candidate and NDP MLA Marianne Cerilli doesn't think they're meaningless.

Even before the cost overruns were revealed, she saw how the money dedicated to the millionaire's pet project could be better spent.

"The $100 million in construction costs covered by the federal government is about double the $40.8 million in the current federal budget for Canada's Affordable Housing Initiative.
"The $22 million annual operating budget could pay for much-needed housing for 5,000 Aboriginal people now on housing waiting lists in Manitoba.
"10,000 immigrants and refugees who are slated to come to Winnipeg yearly join that waiting list, too. "

We've seen Gail Asper take money from the Winnipeg firefighters union that could and should go to their own charity, the Firefighters Burn Fund.

We've seen her stoop to taking $1 million without shame from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which complains daily of a shortage of money for Indian reserves across the province.

Meaningless? No, we don't think so.

And as for our journalism...

Start at the top of this post and keep reading as many times as necessary, before the truth sinks in.

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