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The CMHR has no money and big, expensive plans (for taxpayers to fund)


Monday, July 12, 2010

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights tells Wpg taxman "Talk to the Hand"
Tut, tut, tut.... what have we here?

We should have expected this from Winnipeg's biggest panhandler, millionaire moocher Gail Asper. Actually, in fact, we did. Which is why we checked.

Her pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, has stiffed the City of Winnipeg for $360,000 in property taxes.

Eleven weeks later...

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City taxes hover over museum

Unexpected bill challenges institution's bottom line

By: Mia Rabson

Posted: 30/09/2010 (September 30, 2010) 1:00 AM | Comments: 81

OTTAWA -- A mounting city tax bill that could run into the millions the Canadian Museum for Human Rights didn't know it would have to pay is still causing headaches for the developing institution.

According to both the museum's 2009-10 annual report and its corporate plan for 2008-2015 tabled in the House of Commons this week, the museum has yet to get Ottawa to agree to up its operating funding to help it pay for its city taxes and inflation.

"There are two issues that cannot be managed within... the original operating budget of $21.7 million," the corporate plan notes.

When the museum first developed its operating budgets, it didn't address inflation on costs such as heating and electricity.

Also, nobody picked up on the fact national museums have to make payments in lieu of taxes to the municipality in which they are located. Private museums do not.

So its original operating budgets for 2008 through 2012 did not include having to make those payments.
The first two of those payments is now due but the museum is still negotiating with the city and Public Works Canada about how and when they will be paid.

"Public Works and the city have been in discussions for a number of months," said museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie.

The city formally applied for the first two payments in August, said Cassie.

The 2009 bill, which is for the period April-December 2009, is $157,792.21.

The 2010 bill, for the entire year, is $202,938.63.
WE ... checked the tax rolls.
THEY ... waited for an official handout, the 2009-2010 annual report, two-and-a-half months later.

WE ... got to the meat of the story in 3 paragraphs.
THEY ... took 10 paragraphs.

That's because they're highly trained, highly paid professional reporters, with editors, and we're citizen journalists with brains, computers, working for free and editing our own stories.

We didn't need a pretty picture above the fold and a phony Ottawa dateline to disguise the fact we were reporting history, not news; we relied on the facts as they presented themselves. Old school.

Even with the annual report and the final report of the CMHR content advisory committee in hand, the FP still managed to overlook real news.

The CMHR finally gave its version of the shocking cost overruns that they tried to keep under wraps last year until The Black Rod, using publicly available figures, crunched the numbers and reported the grim facts.

"In the period following the Government’s decision to make the CMHR a National Museum, the cost to build the Predock design – with no additions to the original design, other than those required to qualify for a LEED Silver designation and to reduce long-term operating costs – rose from $265 million to approximately $323 million. The Board of Trustees, after much deliberation, cut $12.4 million in design proposals – reducing the costs as much as possible while maintaining the integrity of the design – and announced in May 2009 that the total budget for the project would be $310 million. The Museum is confident in the ability of the Friends of CMHR to raise the additional $45 million necessary to complete the building project from sources nationally and internationally."

In plain English,

- the cost ballooned to $58 million over budget,
- forcing the trustees to chisel away $12.4 million,
-- and report "only" a $45 million shortfall.

When we reported the museum was as much as $55 million over budget, we actually underestimated the red ink. But readers of the Winnipeg Free Press still have never been told the story of the CMHR's real cost overrun.

As for confidence in the Friends, don't bank on it.

The annual report throws a few twists into the alleged sums the Friends claim to have raised toward the construction of the CMHR.

"In April 2010, the Friends of CMHR paid the third installment of their contribution to the building project as required by the Definitive Agreement in the amount of $24.43 million, less $2.3 million pending completion of a revised agreement to allow the Friends of CMHR operating funds to raise the remaining capital funding required for the project."

Translation: The Friends of CMHR raised $24.3 million towards construction, but only delivered a little over $22 million.

They kept $2.3 million to cover the costs of raising more money.

So the first $2.3 million they raised this year went to cover $2.3 million of the money they told the public they raised last year.

It looks like the campaign to cover the $45 million deficit is chasing a moving target, and we don't really have a clue how much of the shortfall they've actually covered.

The other twist is that the Friends are legally obligated to make four installment payments. Three are down with one to go, and they're nowhere near the $45 million they need to cover the full cost (as of May, 2009) of the museum. What happens next year when their commitment ends? And the red ink doesn't?

Why do we sense that some tradesmen are going to wind up getting stiffed? Get paid in advance, boys.

And speaking of added costs....

If you think something stinks about the museum project, you're right and the annual report confirms it.

"We had some challenges with respect to the caisson foundations. Unfortunately, poor underground conditions such as unsound bed rock, high water levels, and methane gas slowed down the process. The additional time and cost of the caisson work did put some pressure on the contingency budget and the schedule; however, we are diligently working with the contractor, PCL Constructors Canada Inc. and are confident that the project will be managed within the overall budget and schedule for completion."

Methane gas. P-U.

And what's this about "pressure on the contingency budget." That's been eaten up long, long ago. Is that then code for "north of 45 (million dollars")? 22 percent of the budget still hadn't been tendered as of spring, 2010. If Gail Asper's brother Davey was telling the truth about his plans for a new stadium, construction costs exploded between last spring and now.

The CMHR's annual report touches on their tax problem. It seems that millionaire moocher Gail Asper forgot such mundane matters like property taxes when drawing up the operating budget. Oh, and water bills, electricity bills, and the rest of those pesky maintenance costs. So the museum trustees will be doing what they always do---running to the government for more money. At least $5 million for taxes, and as much as $9 million, plus utilities---with annual increases for both.


And don't think for a second that the geniuses behind the CMHR are daunted by little things like no money to pay for construction, no money to cover taxes, and no money for utilities.

The white elephant museum they can't afford is only the start of their delusions of grandeur.

In the content advisory committee's final report, we found this astonishing proposal:

"The Museum should ensure the ongoing in-house education of Museum staff in all aspects of human rights theory, practice, education, and history, as well as emerging issues. This could be done through the creation of a Learning Centre, to which the Museum would seek to attract visiting scholars, practitioners, and defenders of human rights. Permanent staff with expertise in human rights would be actively involved in shaping the Centre's program. As well as being a continuing source of in-service education and development for Museum staff, the Centre could operate programs for other general or specific audiences."

Belly up to the trough, boys and girls. There's plenty of swill for everyone.

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