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CMHR S.O.S.: Admiral Gail Asper adds deck chairs to sinking ship

The wheels have fallen off the bus.

The biggest shills for the un-built Canadian Museum for Human Rights tried singing a lusty chorus of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to overwhelm the grisly facts Tuesday, but it was no use.

What we know, courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press and their echo, the CBC:

* Gail Asper, the prime mover of the museum, is abandoning the sinking ship. She's leaving her role as chief fundraiser for the CMHR to, ahem, concentrate on other projects.

* She and museum CEO Stu Murray, who was hired explicitly for his expertise in fundraising, have failed to raise a dime towards the $45 million cost overruns on the museum in over a year. You know, the overruns the private sector pledged to cover and which they then tried to renege on last year.

* Not only is there no money to pay for the construction of the CMHR, there's no money to bring the thousands of students who were supposed to make up the bulk of the attendance at the museum. Uh oh.

* And last, but not least, construction is already a year behind schedule.

The FP and CBC tried to put the best spin on the dreadful news. The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the charitable foundation behind the CMHR, is expanding, they cheered. Expanding, you see. That's good, isn't it? Isn't expanding a positive thing?

" Right now, all 12 members of the board are from Manitoba; in the future, the revamped board will include 12 directors from Manitoba, and another 12 from across Canada."

"The changes to be officially announced later this week mean the Aspers and (Moe Levy, executive director of the Asper Foundation) will no longer carry the burden as the primary private fundraisers..." wrote reporter Dan Lett.

Whoopee. Twice as many people to raise money. Goodness knows Gail Asper must be getting tired of running all those grapes stomp-a-thons all by herself.

"I'm looking forward to focusing again on other projects at the Asper Foundation, which were sort of put on the back burner while we worked on the museum." she declared.

There's only one reason rats desert a ship. It's going down fast and they don't want to go down with it.

In other words, she's running as fast as she can to put as much air as possible between herself and the white elephant she's saddled the taxpayer with before the facts are revealed.

One inconvenient fact is the still unresolved cost overruns.

"The project is still about $45 million short," wrote Lett.

There are only two ways to look at this. Lett got it right. Or he got it wrong.

If he got it wrong, he has to explain how a highly paid, professional reporter with editors couldn't get his facts right. If he got it right, he forgot to explain how the cost of the project increased by $9 million since the spring.

You see, Gail Asper conceded in May, 2009, that The Black Rod got it right when we crunched the numbers and estimated the CMHR was $50- to $55-million over budget. They managed to slice $10 million off the ballooning deficit and announced they were only $45 million in the soup.

In May of 2010, Gail Asper announced a $2 million donation from, as CBC described it, "a cluster of companies including Power Corporation of Canada, Great West Life, London Life and Canada Life, and Investors Group."

"But", said the CBC, " $36 million still needs to be raised, according to The Friends of the Museum, a charity created to promote the establishment of the museum and act as its fundraising organization."

Less than four months later, the Winnipeg Free Press says "the project is $45 million short." Back to square one without a peep from the MSM.

Is it any wonder that Stu Murray told the FP that things look very bad for the kiddies who were expected to fill the museum.

"Murray said the revamped Friends foundation will be an important contributor to programming at the museum. Although Ottawa has agreed to provide $22 million annually for basic operation costs, more money is needed to send school-age children from around the country to study at the museum."

"The revamped Friends foundation will be expected to raise between $9 million and $12 million annually to support programming, Murray said."

You don't need to be Einstein to see where this is going.

* Costs out of control.
* The chief fundraiser headed for the hills.
* They can't pay their taxes.

And three more years to go.

The CMHR website contains this info:

Construction FAQ
Construction Facts and Figures

Milestone Dates

Construction begins: Spring 2009

Construction duration: 3 years

Construction completion: Summer 2012

But the update in the Winnipeg Free Press says: "Murray said that as the museum nears its opening in the spring of 2013..."

If costs are going up at the rate of $2 million a month, how high will they soar by the spring of 2013?

We're too scared to figure it out.
Because we know who's going to have to pay for it.

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