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 adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Friday, July 13, 2012

Is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights headed for tax sale?

Psst.
Hey, buddy.
Wanna buy a museum? Have we got a deal for you.

Big mofo. Ugly as sin. No heat. No lights. Its still unfinished--- but you can't beat the deal.

Once in a lifetime opp, pal. Buy it for a song, and the federal government pays you $21.5 million a year. 

Not a word of a lie. Hey, where you goin'? Buddy... Buddy...

Think we're kidding? Okay, a little bit.

But here's the real poop---as of June 30, the day you and we had to pay our property taxes to the city, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was $453,505 in arrears on its tax bill. And that's after some Fairy Godmother secretly wiped out another $118,000 of the tax bill. We're still waiting for some explanation how that happened.

If it was any other property in the city, it would have received a notice in writing from the City of Winnipeg last month that it had better come up with some heavy coin to pay off its taxes or risk being put on the list of properties up for tax sale.

But the CMHR is not any ordinary property. It's a federal building, and as such the city can't levy property taxes on it. Instead, the federal government pledges to give the city a "payment in lieu" of taxes equal to what the taxes would be otherwise. 

The problem is that even though the board of the unfinished museum got $21.5 milliion in operating funds last year, it isn't paying its "payment in lieu." The millionaires behind the museum---yes, we're pointing at you Gail Asper--- have been stiffing the City of Winnipeg for three years in a row while spending the millions they get from the feds on who-knows-what?

Any ordinary property owner would be looking at a tax bill approaching $700,000 plus penalties.

The CMHR isn't being charged a penny for non-payment of their "payment in lieu". They've made a few token payments, but still owe money on their 2010 tax bill plus 2011 and 2012 taxes.

However we were exaggerating about your chance at buying the empty hulk. The law says that a property put on the tax sale list, that isn't redeemed by the full payment of arrears, isn't sold at public auction. The city just takes over the title and tries to get rid of the property on its own.

But imagine what would happen if a Manitoba Indian Reserve built itself a $350 million meeting hall in Winnipeg that they never used, received $21.5 million from the federal government for operating funds, and went $700,000 into debt to the city for taxes. Oh yeah, the auditors would be flying in by the planeload. 

But when Whitey spends hundreds of millions of dollars and winds up with an empty echo chamber and an unpaid tax bill, nobody in Ottawa even blinks.

Just for the record, it's now been seven months since the Canadian Museum for Human Rights held its first and so-far only public meeting and revealed that the project was $61 million in the hole. How much has the CMHR raised since then?

A whopping ZERO.

In fact, the chief fundraiser for the museum silently packed her bags and slipped out the back door last month less than a year after being hired by the Friends of the CMHR with great fanfare for her superhuman skills at squeezing money out of donors.

And the "opening" date of the museum has quietly slipped another year to 2015 -- at least.

If it's finished by the end of this year as predicted, it will sit empty for years. 

Maybe they could lead tours of the world's largest dustbunnies to raise a few nickels.

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