Get this. A story based on information that's already two months old gets printed in a Toronto newspaper and the Winnipeg news media goes giddy chasing it. In the process, they missed the real news. Does Winnipeg have the worst journalists in the country or does it only seem that way?
Winnipeg reporters went gaga over a story in the Globe and Mail that the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have to raise almost $50 million more than they intended because of cost overruns.
That was reported in Winnipeg in January when the CMHR revealed that construction costs had climbed by $41 million. So what's new?
Apparently, the spin.
Gail Asper, head fundraiser for the Friends, is now painting the group as the heroes of the story, riding to the rescue of the beleagured museum that's been abandoned by the heartless government. (Gag.) They will have to raise almost $200 million from private and corporate sources (sob) instead of the $150 million they had pledged.
Missing entirely is the part where Gail and her millionaire buddies have spent the past three years lying through their teeth about the cost of the museum, which, to this day, is still unknown. And which has climbed relentlessly from the $265 million they told government officials it would cost, to the $310 million they swore was the final cost, to the $351 million that they're now guessing it will cost, provided you don't count the other $6.5 million they need to finish the building as designed.
Asper, in Toronto on another of her endless fundraising trips, did reveal one bit of new news.
She's retired her gold-plated tin cup and her designer beggar's outfit. Begging is out.
Borrowing is in.
The Friends of the CMHR have finally realized that the federal government is serious about toeing the line on spending. It won't be bullied or extorted into coughing up more than the $100 million its already spent on the museum. Time for Plan B---for 'borrowing' the money that's needed to finish building the damn building.
There's only one itty-bitty problem.
There's only one itty-bitty problem.
Compared to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Greece has a stellar credit rating.
Unless Syria is planning to lend money to the CMHR as a goodwill gesture to win international favour, the prospect of a loan is bad.
The CMHR has informed the federal government, in writing, that even with $21.7 million in annual operating funds, the museum won't be able to afford:
* to pay their property taxes
* to pay their hydro bill
* to pay their water bill
* to pay their heating bill
* to pay their phone bill
So how do they intend to pay the millions of dollars of interest they'll need each year?
Well, Gail Asper kind of hinted at it.
She's looking, reported the Globe and Mail, to “spread the pain across the country,” partly by trying to persuade the provinces and territories to invest.
That, you see, is because everyone knows that a "loan" from government is usually a "grant" by another name. In a year or two, after everyone has forgotten it, the "loan" is quietly forgiven and no one's the wiser.
The Friends of the CMHR needs to raise at least $61 million to finish building the museum in time for it new opening date sometime in 2014. They're still $20 million short of the money needed to cover the first overrun ($45 million) which was revealed 3 years ago. Once they've raised that, they need to raise the next $41 million announced in January.
Will Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger borrow another $20 million? $30 million? $40 million? $60 million to, ahem, loan in turn to the Friends of the CMHR? What the hell? He's already taken the province into a deficit of $1.12 billiion (that's ONE BILLION, ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS) for the past year. He could slip a few tens of million in and who would notice?
But let's not overlook the good news.
Lecture's at the museum's theatre will be standing room only, according to spokesman Angela Cassie. That's because there will be no seats.
Oh, they might bring in folding chairs, the kind you get at the local Legion, but times are tough for a building that approaching $400 million in cost. So scrap the comfy seats.
The Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the Friends of the CMHR, continues to rewrite history to benefit the museum. In this case, they're joined by the other reporters on the story who are too lazy to dig up the true facts.
The pack journalists have settled on the same false information to bamboozle the public:
"The CMHR's construction costs jumped from the 2009 estimate of $310 million to more than $350 million." Winnipeg Free Press
"Construction was originally estimated to cost $265 million in 2007, but increased to $310 million in 2009, and sits at more than $350 million now." Metro
"The estimated cost of construction rose in 2009, to $310 million. That figure rose again in 2011 to $351 million." CBC
"In January, the CMHR upgraded its total projected cost to $351 million, up from the previous estimate of $310 million." Winnipeg Sun
The various costs of construction were NEVER presented as estimates. NEVER.
In March, 2008 the Senate held a hearing into whether the project should become a national museum rather than a private museum. Here's a snippet from the transcript of that hearing:
Senator Cowan: (Addressing Lyn Elliot Sherwood, Executive Director, Heritage Group, Canadian Heritage ) On the page of your presentation entitled ``Background,'' it talks about $165 million having come from various sources other than the federal government and $100 million coming from the federal government. On the next page you say that the budget to build and fit up the museum, including exhibition development, would be capped at $265 million.
These projects have a tendency to run over the expected costs. Who will pick up the tab if the costs exceed $265 million?
How do you cap an estimate? You don't. Here's more:
Senator Cowan: This is not one of those projects where the federal government is left to pick up anything over and above the $165 million that is contributed by other parties, is it?
Ms. Sherwood: The total budget is $265 million.
No mention of an estimate.
But then they had to admit there were some overruns. And they presented another cost of construction. Here's how we covered it:
Friday, August 14, 2009
CMHR won't be able to revise this history
CJOB radio host Geoff Currier sparred Thursday morning with Arni Thorsteinson, chairman of the board of trustees for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and with Gail Asper, chairman of the fundraising campaign by the Friends of the museum.
... Currier wouldn't let Thorsteinson get away without answering if the museum project had a "ceiling," a cost that wouldn't be exceeded no matter what.
"We're at that point now," Thorsteinson finally said. "We've got our final budget. We're highly confident that we will complete the project at that cost."
That cost: $310 million. Write it down. Print it out. Paint it on the wall.
Because Thorsteinson and Gail Asper must be held to account to that number. No excuses. No more moving finish line.
No mention by Arni Thorsteinson of an "estimate." No mention by Gail Asper of an "estimate."
What part of "We've got our final budget" expresses uncertainty?
The MSM may try rewriting history.
But The Black Rod is here to call them on it every time.