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 since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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:

Friday, June 19, 2015

MSM Ignores Historical Revisionism CMHR-style

Aided and abetted by the laziest and worst reporting in the mainstream media,  the long con known as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights made the news again this week.

A "jovial" Gail Asper crowed that the fundraising arm of the museum, which she heads, had surpassed its goal of $150 million in private donations thanks to four million dollars pledged by two foundations and a labour union.  The total raised was $1.5 million over the goal, the news media gushed.

The only problem with that announcement -- a problem which went unreported by a single news outlet --- is that it's a lie.

The only way the 'Friends of the CMHR' could reach its fundraising goal was to ignore almost $80 million in advances, loans, and unpaid obligations that still have to be covered. 

You read that right---Gail Asper's pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights still owes almost $80 million!

Asper, with the collusion of the MSM, has to rewrite history to, as they say, put lipstick on the pig.  
The CMHR is proving to be the white elephant that every critic said it would be.  

With the urgent need to suck tens of millions of dollars more from taxpayers to keep the poisonous project afloat, Asper has to spin, spin and spin a story of good news out of dreck.

Take the so-called fundraising goal of $150 million.  Then take this story in the Globe and Mail three years ago:

"The fundraising arm of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is setting an ambitious new dollar target to ensure that the museum, now under construction in Winnipeg, opens in 2014"

"...on Tuesday evening, after a presentation in Toronto to supporters of the project, Gail Asper, national campaign chair of the Friends of the CMHR, indicated in an interview that the goal is now almost $200-million from private and corporate donors."

Even the Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the rights museum, reported in 2012:

"Private fundraising requirements have gone from $150 million to $200 million."

Gail Asper is counting on the fact that nobody will remember that when, in 2011, she started a hate-campaign against the Ukrainian community in Canada by calling them anti-semites, private donations to the CMHR stopped cold. 

Costs, meanwhile, had risen by leaps and bounds and the museum was $60 million short of what was needed to finish the project.  A disaster of epic proportions loomed.

The federal and provincial governments had to step in with the needed cash to prevent a face plant heard around the world.  First, the feds secretly gave the rights museum $10 million with no publicity, no news releases, nothing to even hint at how the money was spent. It was done by "reconfiguring" maintenance funds to construction funds, a trick we still think was illegal and worthy of investigation by the federal auditor general.

Then they "advanced" $35 million to the museum so that it could be built.  The "advance" is supposed to start being repaid in three years (2018) by having the federal government reduce its annual $21.7 million in operating funds.

Yeah, that's going to happen.  Anyone who has read the museum's annual reports knows that they have already said they can't operate on $21.7 million a year and they will be asking for millions more from the federal government when its time to renew their annual funding,  which is sometime this year. 

When that happens, their only option is to ask the feds to forgive the advance and screw the taxpayers.

But $35 million in federal money still wasn't enough to save the museum.  The province of Manitoba had to guarantee a loan of $25 million to $30 million.  A loan from whom we still haven't learned because it, too, is a secret kept by the CMHR.

Nonetheless, they have to repay the loan, somehow.  Except they don't have any money. A million or two a year is peanuts when you're talking about paying back $60 million.  The answer?  You know. Default on the loan and let the province pay it.  And "province" is spelled Y-O-U.

Then there's the matter of taxes. The CMHR isn't paying.  They owe, by our estimate, at least $15 million in back taxes.  They've budgeted $600,000 for taxes this year when their bill is more like $7 million.  Essentially they've been paying the frontage fee, but not the property tax.

The federal government is arguing that Winnipeg has over-assessed the museum, that the building is almost worthless for any other use than a federal museum and so should pay only a bare minimum.

They tried the same gambit with a project in Halifax.  That city fought them all the way to the Supreme Court.  The federal government lost.  We've read the court decision. The feds don't have a leg to stand on.  They're just stalling the inevitable.

The taxes are supposed to be paid out of the $21.7 million in funding that the museum gets from the federal government each year. Only, as you see, they're already crying 'poor', planning to ask for more, and wondering how to wiggle out of a reduction in annual funding when it comes time to repay the $35 million "advance."

You know what's going to happen just as we do.  The CMHR is going to go to City Hall, cap in hand, and beg for taxes to be waived. 

But  there's a twist in the story.  Winnipeg needs the money to repay a secret $10 million loan from the province which made up the city's alleged contribution to the museum.  That was the deal.  No taxes, no repayment and the province has to eat that $10 million, too.

Gail Asper's fundraising group is supposed to be raising the money to pay all these expenses above and beyond what the three levels of government agreed to contribute when the project got the go-ahead.   

Instead, she's claiming she's raised more money than promised.  

The reimagined history of the CMHR is built on a litany of false and bent facts.

When announcing its triumphant fundraising, Gail Asper thanked the 8200 donors who made it possible.  That would be the same 8200 donors who were thanked when the museum officially opened its doors nine months ago.  In other words, in nine months they haven't attracted any more individual donors. How pathetic is that?

The CMHR brags that it's beating its own revenue targets, having raised $1.5 million since it opened to the end of March, 2015.  But in its financial report ending Dec. 31, 2014 there's this note:
13. Contingent Liabilities:
A statement of claim related to the base building construction has been filed by a sub-trade against the Construction Manager for an amount higher than has been accrued in the financial statements. A reasonable estimate of any additional liability cannot be made at this time.

We tracked down the lawsuit. Its for $2 million. If the museum loses, all of its earned revenue, and more, will be swallowed up in one gulp.

And about that revenue.  The financial report contains this breakdown.

Nine months ended Dec 31, 2014  

Admissions and Programs    
General Admission –                  $ 430          
Memberships -                               108  -    
Public Programs -                            18  -    
Retail Boutique Sales                     262  -    
Facility Rental                                 221  -    
Restaurant and catering -                111  -    
Total                                                $ 1,150   
In short, they only raised $350,000 in the first three months of 2015. Of that, $240,000 (16 percent) came from school tours.

CBC reported that museum spokeswoman Rhea Yates applauded the CMHR's "tremendously successful first year."

"Overall visitation and overall revenue are the key measuring sticks and the museum is doing well on both. Our 12-month visitation goal is 250,000 — we nearly reached that in seven months," she said.

That comment raised an immediate red flag.  Did she imply that the CMHR is going to claim credit here on in for attracting 250,000 visitors a year?  Because that would be the biggest rewrite of history yet.

The museum boosters have since Day One insisted that the CMHR would attract 250,000 additional tourists a year to Winnipeg to see the museum.  There was no misunderstanding about that.  The rights museum was going to be such an "iconic" attraction that a quarter of a million people from around the world were going to come to Winnipeg just to see it.

To reconfigure those 250,000 tourists into 250,000 visitors is the biggest con of all and a confession that we've just wasted $351 million.

How much of a waste?  To answer that we must credit a dedicated reader who did more research than all the professional journalists in town combined.

He spotted this statement in the Winnipeg Free Press:
" As expected the Womens' World Cup has resulted in thousands of soccer fans taking in the museum."

Having learned not to believe a word from the CMHR, he followed up with a question of the reporter.  Were these paid admissions?

The reporter, to his credit, asked the question of museum staff. 

What he got was a Page One story. Instead, you'll read it in The Black Rod.  He replied to our correspondent:

Here's the response from a spokesperson from CMHR.

"Yes. They were paid. Athletes and delegates had passes for local attractions but the uptake on that was low. Don't have the exact count for that but the last I heard, it was less than 25."

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