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Winnipeg Free Press stares blankly into chasm of taxpayers' reality

There's a great disconnect between the Winnipeg Free Press and the public.

As the newspaper's circulation has melted away by the thousands, its owners have gradually abandoned the average citizen to align themselves with the rich and powerful. They don't stand up for the little guy anymore; they believe the little guy is standing in the way.

They see their own readers as stupid, so consumed by their petty hardscrabble lives that they can't see the big picture and thus need the guidance of the Winnipeg Free Press to understand reality.

Case in point---a column Saturday mocking the hoi polloi by veteran city hall reporter Bartley Kives which was titled:

What do we want? Everything!
Just don't raise our taxes
Kives compared Winnipeggers to spoiled children. He called them "impressionable if not outright clueless", people too dense to realize that everytime they call for better city services, they're asking for higher taxes because one pays for the other.

Politicians need to spell it out for the dummies or else "...they likely won't draw any connection between the revenue the city rakes in from property taxes and the money it takes to maintain, never mind improve, services such as policing and road repairs," he sneered.

His conclusion:

"If taxes must rise, then raise them. Or cut services and take ownership of that decision. Just don't blame anyone else for the situation, as every informed voter has seen this coming since 2006."

Here's the problem---for Kives and his ilk---those are not the only choices available, and the citizens he's so condescending towards know it.

Winnipeg taxpayers have seen the mayor and council spend millions on personal whims, on personal friends and projects that nobody wanted. And now they want to raise taxes so they can have more money to waste?

Mayor Sam Katz admitted last month that in 2010 when the city got $20 million from the federal government to spend on active transportation it went on a wild spending spree that saw bicycle paths built throughout neighbourhoods that never asked for them, never wanted them and were never asked for their opinion.

If sidewalk repairs are a priority for city taxpayers, then here was $20 million to do the job. Walking is active transportation and people walk on sidewalks. Did City Hall listen to taxpayers? Hell, no. They spent the money on their pet project, which they rammed through after fake "public consultations".

City officials pretended to hold public consultations on the replacement of the Disraeli Bridge, by asking local residents which of 3 designs they preferred. The public responded and chose a $140 million bridge, not the most expensive and not the least expensive. Guess what? City Hall had secret meetings with a lobby group and decided to build two bridges, one adjacent to the other, at a cost equal to the most expensive option that had been rejected by the taxpayers.

End result...50 million dollars the public DID NOT WANT SPENT.

The Provencher Bridge wound up costing $6 million more than budgeted. So what, said then-mayor Glen Murray. It's so beeeooootiful. Except that the cost had nothing to do with the design. Everybody knew what it would look like when it got the go-ahead; nobody has ever explained why it cost so much more.

Nobody ever does. Katz said in his last State of the City address that repairs to water treatment plants went $70 million over budget. SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS. Was anybody ever held to account for this humongous boondoggle? Nope.

Scientists say there's no benefit to removing nitrogen from waste water that will wind up in Lake Winnipeg. Provincial bureaucrats ignore the science and order the City of Winnipeg to spend $350 million to do it anyway. Taxpayers are helpless.

If we could just get city councillors to stop wasting money we could not only fund all the improvements to city services that are wanted, but we could probably cut property taxes at the same time. That's the reality Kives doesn't want to face.

At the same time as Kives argues for an increase in taxes, he's turning a blind eye to how the rich friends of Winnipeg Free Press co-owner Bob Silver are NOT paying the property taxes they owe. As reported exclusively in The Black Rod, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has not paid its tax arrears for three years now.

The board of directors, which includes Gail Asper, argues its up to the federal government to pay the taxes, but the feds give the museum millions in operating funds out of which the board is expected to pay the city in lieu of taxes (which federal institutions don't pay directly). They've come up with dribs and drabs, but haven't once paid off an entire year's worth of taxes at once fell shot.

Even worse, as we reported exclusively at The Black Rod, somebody at City Hall has secretly written off $118,000 of the museum's outstanding tax bill.

This was obviously done so that they can now default on their 2012 taxes without fear of going up for tax sale.

Who is the inside friend of the CMHR? Just as obviously, Bartley Kives, city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, doesn't want to know.

Not even when the obvious implication is that somebody in a position of power might be getting a payoff to keep the influential from paying their fair share of taxes.

This certainly isn't something the mayor and city councillors will chase. After all, last spring they voted unanimously to kick back $3.9 million of taxes to the CMHR. Kives forgot to mention that in his story about how you should have your taxes raised at least 5 percent this year.

All propaganda begins with a germ of truth that's eventually smothered in false facts and spin.

The Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, did what it could with a new national poll to argue for a blank cheque from the federal government without which the museum can't be finished.

The FP, written by "professional" journalists, started by getting its facts wrong. The poll was conducted by Abacus Data for Sun Media and QMI (Quebecor Media Inc.), not OMI.

The internet poll of 1000 people consisted of four questions. We paraphrase:

Do you support the creation of the CMHR?
How likely are you to travel to Winnipeg to see it?
If you were already in Winnipeg, would you go to this museum?
If you had a choice, would you rather see a Winnipeg Jets hockey game or go to the CMHR?

The questioning started with a short preamble:

"The purpose of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to explore the subject of human rights in order to enhance the public understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue."
"The museum will feature exhibits that highlight Canada's human rights history, aboriginal concepts of human rights, the Holocaust, and current human rights issues."

Its hard to believe that even 11 percent of respondents had some opposition to the museum after hearing that glowing picture of it. Perhaps they knew how misleading it was.

Nevertheless, the FP seized on the fact that 57 percent of respondents supported the museum, with support ranging from enthusiastic (26 percent) to lukewarm (31 percent). It ignored the finding that another 31 percent, almost one-third, couldn't care less about the museum and neither supported nor opposed it.

But the Free Press rode a poll too far when they claimed ".... incredibly, 15 per cent of Canadians said they would make a special trip to Winnipeg to visit the museum."
Not even close.

A mere 3 percent said they were likely to make a trip to Winnipeg to see the museum.

Another 12 percent said they were "somewhat" likely. What's that mean? Somewhat is one of those weasel words that in a case like this means "maybe." And 'maybe' is meaningless when you're spending close to $400 million on a project with absolutely no idea if anybody will come to see it.

But the spin given by the FP is that " potentially millions of people" who "would get in their cars or hop on an airplane for a pilgrimage to the centre of the country."
Not surprisingly, more people would go to a Jets game than the human rights museum.

" Nearly 65 per cent of women would go to the museum." said the Winnipeg Free Press.


The poll said barely more than half the women (55 percent) would prefer the museum. Can't those "professional" reporters even get the printed facts right?

The pollster conceded that support would likely have been lower if respondents had known about how much the museum cost to build and how much it will cost taxpayers to maintain and keep open.

We would be just as interested in gauging the public's response to learning that the CMHR intends to put the Holocaust at the top of a hierarchy of the world's mass murders, and that the idea of a dialogue by the museum's proponents is a campaign of hate speech to smear detractors as anti-semitic.

The FP went into overdrive when whistling past the museum's financial graveyard. The "new budget" is short about $60 million", "not including $6.5 million for a postponed theatre and temporary gallery", they conceded.

Private fundraisers would try to raise the shortfall, but, said the newspaper, unless they hit a gusher of donations in Alberta, "it could be five or six years before the money is in the bank."

Puh-lease. The CMHR barely managed to raise donations and IOU's worth $5 million last year. At that rate it would take 12 years to raise the $61 million needed just to finish the construction. The theatre and temporary gallery that will add another $6.5 million and two years worth of fundraising are a vital part of the project as designed and not frills.

On the museum's own website, it outlines The Concept in four paragraphs.

Literally half of "The Concept", two of four paragraphs, discuss the temporary gallery and the theatre.

"The inside of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be as unique and innovative as the iconic outside of the building. There will be over 47,000 ft2 of exhibit space, 10 zones, and a temporary exhibition gallery where visitors will be able to examine human rights issues in depth."

"The arts will be used as a medium to tell complex human rights stories within the Museum. There will be several theatre spaces where films can be viewed, as well as performing arts spaces for live theatre and dance.

The actual cost of finishing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is approaching $135 million, as we detailed in late December.

And that doesn't include the $50 million the museum's backers need for an endowment fund to bring 20,000 students to Winnipeg every year. The student endowment fund is as central to the project as its front doors. Without it, there may as well not be a museum for human rights in Winnipeg.

Here's how the Friends of the CMHR states it on their website:

A Unique Student Travel Program

Inspired by the impact of The Asper Foundation Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program, one of the cornerstones of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a funded national student travel program that will bring up to tens of thousands of students to the Museum each year, and interact with thousands more via the Internet and traveling exhibits. No other national museum offers such a program.

Add $50 million to the $135 million and you're at $185 million.

Add $185 million of project costs to the long discredited $310 million budget and you're at $495 million---nearly half a billion dollars.

Maybe the Winnipeg Free Press will fund a poll, asking Canadians if they support spending half a billion dollars on the CMHR.