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Blogspot | 26Dec2011 | blackrod
The CMHR tests Stephen
Money for whites as aboriginals get the shaft ?
There's a term they use in the
boxing world when a fighter is being beaten to a pulp and his cornermen
want the fight stopped to spare him further punishment.
They call it 'throwing in the towel'.
On Friday, the biggest boosters of the Canadian Museum for
threw in the towel.
Like a punch-drunk fighter, the CMHR is still swinging, refusing to
give up. But the Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the museum,
admitted in an editorial that the cost overruns of the CMHR are beyond
the ability of the private sector to pay. The charade is over.
The numbers are so grim that the FP refuses to publish them.
So we'll do it for them.
Before the public meeting held by the CMHR in early December, they
claimed they were within $20 million of their budget. Two weeks after
the meeting, they confessed that costs had actually risen another $41
million --- for construction alone.
Subtotal: $ 61
Even that wouldn't get you a finished building.
The CMHR said they weren't counting the costs of a 350-seat theatre and
of a temporary gallery, that was going to be used for travelling
exhibits and for non-permanent shows on a theme, event or issue. They
ran out of money before these could be tendered, so they don't even
know how much they would cost, although both are an integral part of
You can add $2 million to
As reported in The Black Rod, the Friends of the Canadian Museum for
Human Rights reduced the amount of money they turned over for
construction in 2010 by $2 million so they could use the money for
future fundraising. But
they didn't subtract it from the total they claimed they raised.
The 2010-2011 annual report from the CMHR says that as of March 31,
2011 they had spent
$143.3 million on building the museum.
And they had $83.3
million in cash and investments on hand waiting to be
But that only adds up to $226.6 million.
At that point, they were
claiming publicly they had raised $285 million.
Where was the rest?
Ten million dollars was the final payment from the federal government,
to be paid out this year, but the other $49 million had to be the IOU's
collected by the private fundraising group, Friends of the Museum.
Twenty million of that was paid out in 2011, according to a later
financial statement from the CMHR, leaving $29 million outstanding. Add
a total of $92 million
the cost of untendered work, that the private sector has
to either raise or collect in one year to finish the project.
Not. A. Hope. In. Hell.
And that would only pay for the building. The original budget set the
price of exhibits---four years ago---at $35 million. Has that doubled
Can the private sector
raise $127 million to $162 million to finish the museum in two years?
Not on this planet.
The Winnipeg Free Press conceded as much, but what they did next -- was
The newspaper then dove headlong into an astonishing, headspinning
exercise of rewriting history straight out of George Orwell's Ministry
The Free Press story
writes millionaire Gail Asper, and even her father, billionaire Izzy
Asper, out of the history of the CMHR and inserts in their place Prime
Minister Stephen Harper.
By the 'new truth', the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is Stephen
Harper's project, not the Asper family's. (Honest. We're not making this
up. You can't make this stuff up.) In fact, the headline
on the editorial is "Mr. Harper must finish his project."
By the new reasoning, Stephen Harper "assumed complete control of the
project" in 2007 when he seized it from "those who had earlier been
struggling to get the project off the ground." and made it into a
He installed his own board of directors, the Free Press said, and
Harper appointed his own CEO, Stu Murray,without consultation. (Uh, oh. It sure smells like
somebody's getting set up for a trip under the bus.)
"Ottawa was in charge," trumpeted the editorial.
Gail Asper, the hero of the Free Press version of truth, came to the
rescue of the federal government, not vice versa, by committing the
private fundraising group Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human
Rights, to raise $105 million of the $265 million budget.
"Last April, the Friends met their target and fulfilled their promise."
the newspaper declared triumphantly. And when the budget rose to $310
million, the "fundraiser agreed to make up the difference" bless their
souls. "Today," sniffed the editorial,
"they are about $20 million short of that goal, an enormous
But the museum staff "says it needs $41 million more before it can
open." ( Note how subtly
they've started creating distance between museum staff and the
Asper-led Friends.) The cost overruns "were to be
expected", says the newspaper, which interestingly never
once in three years of construction predicted that there would be more
than $80 million in overruns.
"The fact is it is Mr. Harper's responsibility to finish the museum by
providing the last $41 million. It's Canada's museum and his reputation
that are at risk, not the Asper family's."
That's as much hysterical historical revisionism as we can stand.
Every single word in
Friday's editorial was refuted in Saturday's War-And-Peace
length feature story by
columnist Dan Lett on the history of how the museum came
He obviously didn't get the memo.
His story lays it out --- how billionaire Izzy Asper wanted to
memorialize the Holocaust with a museum here in Winnipeg, how he rooked
the federal government into pledging $100 million for his pet project,
how the Aspers hired an architect, selected the design and signed
contracts before the federal government accepted the CMHR as a national
* Lett forgot to mention
how museum backers lied to the Senate to get that
official museum status by declaring the budget of $265 million was
accurate and backed by a healthy 15 percent contingency provision, and
that in any event the private sector fundraisers would cover all cost
* He also forgot to
mention that Gail Asper sits on the museum's board of trustees,
heads the private fundraising effort, and has fought vociferously to
limit the government's say on anything the museum does.
* And the fact that in 3 years she's
made repeated public statements that its the private sector's
responsibility to cover the increased costs of
construction, not the government's.
That's Lett's share of historical revisionism.
Why would the newspaper even try to rewrite the truth in such a
At the time of the public meeting, when the museum reps studiously kept
the latest cost overruns a secret, the chairman of the board of museum
trustees was Arni Thorsteinson, a once-upon-a-time honoured and
respected local businessman. As soon as the meeting was over and the
first hints of trouble were reported, Thorsteinson bolted for the Exit.
He was long gone before the hopelessness of the CMHR's financial
situation was revealed and nobody has been able to get a single word
from him since.
His replacement came from within --- Eric Hughes, who the Winnipeg Free
Press described as a Calgary oil executive, who had been serving as
What the FP
carefully avoided from saying is that Eric Hughes is a close personal
friend of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
They've been friends since their university days. In fact, Hughes
played a big role in convincing Harper to get into politics. He handled
the finances of the Canadian Alliance. He's a total Harper insider.
That's why the
Free Press has decided to throw their credibility overboard. There is
no other hope. They intend to whitewash the Aspers and put the blame on
the failure of the museum on Harper unless he succumbs to the blackmail
and writes a blank cheque for his pal.
Today the FP said there is talk of a $45 million bridge loan from the
government to the museum.
A bridge loan to nowhere.
A loan implies it will be repaid. There's absolutely no hope the museum
backers can repay anything.
- Remember, Stu Murray was hired as CEO in large part because of his,
ahem, expertise in fundraising.
- In April, the Friends of the CMHR announced the appointment of
Davorka Cvitkovic as their first-ever CEO. "Dav Cvitkovic is recognized
as one of the most accomplished fundraising professionals in
Canada...," said John Stefaniuk, president of the Friends of the CMHR's
board of directors.
- Gail Asper was the national chairman of the Friends' fundraising
campaign. "Gail Asper is Canada’s best fundraiser,” said Gail Dexter
Lord, co-president of Lord Cultural Resources.
After all these experts got to work, the CMHR is further in debt today
than it was three years ago.
And you're going to lend money to them?
The museum lists as major contributors a dozen banks and credit unions.
Why don't these financial institutions come to their rescue and loan
them $45 million? The Aspers and their fellow millionaires could put
their homes and summer homes and vacation homes up as collateral to
backstop the loan.
Surely there's no risk
the loan won't be paid back, is there?
The Harper government has much more at risk by becoming the lender of
last resort than seeing a friend's nose out of joint.
If the Harper government rushes, or tiptoes or crawls, to the aid of
the CMHR it will prove to all of Canada that it is a racist government.
The federal government tries to demonstrate its fiscal responsibility
by criticizing aboriginal band councils for mismanaging their budgets
and reacts to extreme cases by taking control of the finances through a
third party manager.
But when a white organization like the CMHR demonstrates it is
completely out of control of its finances, the Harper government turns
a blind eye except for looking how to give them even more money to
Why is this government treating aboriginals differently from whites?
That is racism. Plain and simple.
Unless the Harper government takes control of the finances away from
the CMHR, dismisses all the board of trustees, and orders a full and
public investigation of how the money was spent, all the lies that were
told, and who knew what and when, it deserves to be labelled as a
racist, anti-aboriginal government throughout Canada.
This isn't a case of doing a favour for a pal.
If this government has principles, it must apply those principles
equally regardless of race or political influence.
The cost of the CMHR has gone from $265 million to $351 million, plus
untendered work, plus the cost of exhibits, plus plus plus, without any
approval from the public.
At least aboriginal governments are elected.
The Harper government
must stop the construction of the museum immediately until it knows for
certain how much more money is needed. It must insist that
the $310 million budget cannot be exceeded. The project must be
finished as best it can within that $310 million, and what cannot be
paid for will not be built.
That is the message that
must be sent to the entire country --- stay within your budgets or else
pay the consequences.
What then? Then the grandiose plans of the Aspers must be thrown on the
trash heap of arrogance.
The best idea we've heard yet is that the Winnipeg Convention Centre
could move into the building to share space with the revamped "ideas"
This would save the city hundreds of millions of dollars and recoup
some of the monstrous loss we face with the current money pit.
The Harper government must act or pay the political price.
Downtown Winnipeg, Free Press, Gail Asper, Holodomor