Winnipeg got a lesson in true philanthropy this past week. A retired pharmacist who quietly -- nay, secretly, to even his family --- saved up a million dollars, donated it this week, half to the Misericordia Health Centre Foundation and half to the Riverview Heath Centre Foundation.
Laurie Johnston did it with humility and with little fanfare. He didn't ask for a towering statue to be erected in his name, a backlit plaque, or even a framed certificate from the Premier. He did it, he said, to repay a debt to a deceased family friend who generously gave him $200 to tide him over in the weeks before he took his final pharmacy exams so long ago.
Passing it forward was payment enough for him.
People couldn't help but contrast his donation with the spectacle of a family of millionaires demanding a blank cheque from the federal government to finish building a giant monument to their deceased father under the guise of a gift to the community --- a gift nobody asked for, nobody wants to pay for, and which has turned into a gigantic money pit that's draining contributions from every true charity in the province.
A new shill for the aforesaid Canadian Museum for Human Rights popped up early in the week in the pages of the Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the museum. Or, rather, an old shill with newfound humility.
Brent Bellamy is the senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.
He's no stranger to readers of The Black Rod.
Three years ago, when construction on the doomed CMHR started, he gloated in the faces of opponents of the project.
"A Winnipeg architect who posts on internet message boards under the name Trueviking is an avid defender of the CMHR. He let slip the true attitude of the museum backers in this post Tuesday to a critic:
Yesterday, 06:36 PM
suck it up big boy...the party has started and there is nothing you can do about it except cry in your beer....insert red river jig here.
(...when only The Black Rod was predicting humongous cost overruns, he responded to our persistent coverage of the CMHR.)
05-16-2009, 01:01 PM Human rights museum budget already short
Yesterday, 04:33 AM
we should have two threads...one for people who want to follow the construction and discuss the evolution of this incredible project ... and one for guys who want to quote black rod, that beacon of un-biased journalism, and worry that the federal government might have to pay for meaningless cost overruns or the operation of a federal museum, god forbid."
Now that he's begging the federal government to pay for meaningless cost overruns, he's adopted a different attitude.
"Inspiration comes with a cost," summed up the headline over the article by Bellamy.
Bellamy wrote that the latest cost overruns on the project ($41 million and counting) were not surprising and were, in fact, "not uncommon for a complex building of this type."
Well, duh. The only ones professing surprise are the politicians who approved the museum and its proponents. The public, which has had plenty of experience with these charades, was predicting from the day it was announced that the cost would at least double or triple.
"The budget shortfall of the CMHR is unfortunate..." concluded Bellamy.
No, it's criminal.
The museum was built by fraud.
Its backers knew the cost they were tossing around was false, and would be used only to get the project started whereupon they would extort tens of millions more from complacent government officials.
Bellamy acknowledged that eliminating construction overruns is possible---by making the architects and engineers agree to be responsible for paying them out of their own pockets---but the result, he said, is boring buildings.
No, he said, the public needs to pay the big bucks for a fancy schmancy building "to transform Winnipeg's uninspired image abroad and cultivate a new confidence within." Cue the violins.
"A citys (sic) economy is fueled by optimism and the CMHR is a large part of Winnipeg's new confidence."
That's funny. The City felt pretty much the same for the past three years as the museum monstrosity was being built. It only came alive on the day the return of the Winnipeg Jets was announced.
But, then, the Winnipeg Free Press is engaged in rewriting history, and Bellamy is obviously part of that campaign.
"The CMHR reinforces Winnipeg's reputation as a creative city of art and culture," the architect rhapsodized delusionally.
Unless there's another city called Winnipeg on this planet, that has to be the dumbest statement made by anyone supporting the museum yet. Winnipeg's reputation throughout Canada is of murders and mayhem.
To even write "a city of art and culture" shows the vast gulf between reality and the fantasy world the Winnipeg elites live in.
"The CMHR... and its daring form contributes to a growing public appreciation for the unique architectural design that is transforming Winnipegs modern urban image."
Hey, Brent, the only thing growing is public anger at having their pockets picked to fund this money pit, and at the politicians who want to raise taxes on homeowners while turning a blind eye to their millionaire scofflaw friends who fail to pay theirs.
But, then, Bellamy managed to top even himself.
"The Sydney Opera House was 15 years late and 1,400 per cent over-budget, yet few would label it a boondoggle or white elephant. It stands as an example of what can be achieved when risks are taken. The CMHR holds the same transformative potential for Winnipeg."
We went to work researching the Sydney Opera House. The first thing we found was that it is legendary in planning circles as one of the Top Ten boondoggles in modern architecture history.
At a time (the late Fifties) when Australia didn't have enough schools and was suffering a housing shortage with a quarter of a million people living in huts, sheds and ramshackle homes, the government of the day decided to build an opera house.
Just like in Winnipeg, the promoters lowballed the project from the beginning, then watched the cost grow to Godzilla proportions.
They said the cost would be $7 million (Australian). By the time it was finished, it cost $101 million.
Don't do the math, we did it for you. That's about $420 million in today's Canadian dollars, or roughly where the CMHR is heading.
The difference is that the Australian government only paid $100,000 for its end. The rest was made up from a special lottery and it "only" took 16 years to pay the whole cost. (This was back before government lotteries sprang up like weeds in May.)
That's why the public outcry was muted in Sydney.
Unlike Winnipeg, the taxpayer wasn't forced to pay.
But the story gets better.
The budget for the Sydney Opera House caromed so out of control that the government (a new one) seized control of the project!
That's right. THE GOVERNMENT SEIZED CONTROL, exactly what we've been advocating.
In Sydney, the architect quit in a huff and took his plans with him, forcing the new project managers to scramble to recreate his work and watch costs skyrocket even further. They're still trying to fix the acoustics.
You can find two studies on the Sydney Opera House online from two perspectives. They reached the same conclusion.
The first, by what appears to be a student of architecture or engineering, concludes "... although the opera house put Sydney on the world map, both architecturally and culturally... from project management perspective it was a spectacular failure as a consequence of ignoring risk management."
The other, a more professional report focussed on stakeholders by authors, Dr. Paol Canonico and Dr. Jonas Söderlund, concurred: "The Sydney Opera House could probably be seen as one of the most financially disastrous construction projects in history."
But, but, but, isn't the Sydney Opera House famous?
Even Drs. Canonico and Soderlund said so.
"Today, more than being a world-class performing arts centre, the Opera House
represents Sydney and even the whole nation the same way as the Eiffel Tower represents Paris. It’s known not only for its outstanding architecture, but also for exceptional engineering and technological innovation."
The Opera House in Sydney, the main city of Australia, represents the country the same way that the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the main city of France, represents France.
And we're building a giant museum in----the ninth largest city in Canada (by population) isolated on the Prairies, a thousand miles from the largest city in Canada. You know where that's going.
You don't need experts to tell you what you know. Have you heard of the Eiffel Tower? Have you ever heard of the Sydney Opera House? 'Nuff said.
The elites like Bellamy expect you to gush and swoon at the excesses of construction of the CMHR just as they do---cost be damned.
The museum is the size of four football fields. You will enter via a 150-foot deep cavern.
The glass for the "cloud" is imported from Germany.
The steel from Poland, Belgium and the U.S.
Ramps are of alabaster from Spain.
Columns of basalt, 617 metric tonnes "quarried and cut in Inner Mongolia."
An early booster of the museum described it Pharaonic in scale. We looked it up and, yes, it means like the Pharoahs of Egypt.
We were immediately reminded of that famous poem---'Ozymandias' by Shelley.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
We got it wrong and we want to correct the record. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was NEVER intended to be a private museum. We've reported otherwise. But Gail Asper wrote in the 10 Year Anniversary Issue (December, 2010) of a publication put out by the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights that her daddy intended to stick it to the feds from the very beginning.
From the publication:
One misconception that stands out
is how people believed we intended
this to be a private museum. The
opposite is true. Right from the
beginning, my father stated that he
only wanted to spearhead this project,
not run it or control the agenda. That’s
what The Asper Foundation does; we
initiate good ideas that may not come
to pass if we don’t get involved. But
once they’re on their feet, we move on.
Our first letter to the Right Honourable
Jean Chrétien in November 2001 proposes
this as a national, federal museum
Labels: boondoggle, CMHR, Downtown Winnipeg, Eiffel Tower, Free Press, Sydney Opera House, white elephant