Only two months ago Mayor Katz gave Gail Asper's pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a present of $3.6 million. "Here, we don't need it," he said, just before rushing to the microphones to whine about an infrastructure deficit. "Wahh. We don't have any money to fix the streets. Wahhh. It's Greg Selinger's fault."
Today, guess what? The CMHR has stiffed the city on its property taxes for the second year in a row. And that's after the city shaved their tax bill down so that they owed less than last year.
Yessiree. Despite sucking up more than 30 million federal dollars in the past three years in, ahem, "operating costs", the CMHR can't find a penny to pay their taxes. (There's a legal fiction that as a federal institution they don't have to pay taxes per se, but they still have to make payments in lieu of taxes equal to the taxes.)
The outstanding bill is a shade over $443,000 plus penalties of almost $36,000 for non-payment in 2010. (The city charges 1.25 percent per month on unpaid tax bills.)
The last time we exposed the CMHR as tax scofflaws, CEO Stu Murray nearly broke down the doors to CJOB to insist that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights would pay its fair share of taxes.
The CMHR hasn't even paid its 2009 taxes in full. For 2009 the museum owed $157,792. That sum, which wasn't assessed until after the '09 tax deadline had passed, was added to the 2010 tax bill ($202,938) for a grand total last year of $360,730.
The museum eventually coughed up $119,000, which was applied to the 2009 taxes, leaving almost $39,000 owing for '09, plus $5700 in penalties, plus all of the 2010 tax bill, plus $30,000 in penalties on the '10 bill.
The 2011 tax bill was actually lower than the previous year at $201,304 because of reassessment. While they skipped out on their tax bill, they did pay their frontage levy.
* Two weeks before tax day, junior high students from Selkirk donated $30,579 to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights from the auction of home-built guitars signed by celebrities. That money didn't even cover one year of penalties owed by the CMHR for failing to pay its taxes.
The kids, to put it simply, got screwed. Their money and effort bought nothing.
* Also screwed are the children in Winnipeg School Division No. 1. They're out $128,000 in school tax owed by the CMHR for 2010 alone.
The poorest school division in the city is being cheated out of needed funds because the millionaire backers of a millionaire's pet project won't pay their fair share of taxes and all of Winnipeg's city councillors don't care a whit.
* While the school children are being penalized, one person who was not suffering any deprivation was good ol' Stu Murray. The CMHR spent $25,000 flying him around the world last year, putting him up in fine hotels and feeding him well.
He traveled to China, New York, Ottawa (six times), Toronto (five times), Vancouver (twice), St. John's, Newfoundland (twice), Calgary, Regina, and Gatineau, Quebec.
The next time he's killing time in an airplane flying to who knows where, Murray should bone up on Winnipeg tax law.
Especially the part where, quote, "If your property taxes are not paid for more than two years, the City has a legal right to start processing your property toward a tax sale."
* In April, as city council was wrapping up its $3.6 million present to Gail Asper's pet project, St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel attacked anyone questioning the finances of the CMHR as mentally disturbed.
"We should just shut up and get this done," he said.
You can see why the millionaires backing the CMHR can't be bothered paying their city taxes.
They're counting on Sam Katz and Justin Swandel to turn a blind eye for their buddies while insisting the little people have to pay more taxes.
For the children, of course.