| Zuzak Letters |
Blogspot | 05Jan2014 | blackrod
CMHR finances are dimmer
than ever despite Toronto puffery
The snow's up to our roofs, it's colder in Winnipeg than on Mars, and
the mayor thinks that clearing the snow and ice off city streets is an
unnecessary luxury. Sometimes you really need a laugh.
The Globe and Mail came to the rescue Saturday. In a puff piece about
the over-budget, overdue, over-hyped Canadian Museum for Human Rights,
writer Roy MacGregor gushed that "(m)ore than 75,000 people"
have donated money to build the thing.
"It is a striking and memorable building, if rather eccentric."
Which is Toronto-high society-speak for "Yikes, is it ever ugly!"
The punchline of the piece is how wrong MacGregor's awe-inducing
declaration of public support for the epic money pit is.
By all accounts, the real number of donors to the CMHR is barely
7500. That's right, one-tenth of what MacGregor said it was.
Seven thousand, five hundred. And, to quote MacGregor "some as little
as a few dollars."
So the family of multi-millionaires really are cheap panhandlers.
They're bumming a couple of bucks here and a few bucks there to build a
monument to their billionaire father while claiming its a sign that the
public supports their conceit.
The Globe and Mail scribe saw the real number, couldn't believe it
wasn't a typo and added a zero to make it more "realistic".
That's the only explanation, other than the usual journalistic
Apart from the fake news promoted by the Globe and Mail, there is real
news from the CMHR courtesy of museum CEO and chief cheerleader Stu
He was interviewed on CJOB a couple of weeks ago and dropped a
bombshell that was overlooked by all the "professional" reporters in
Guest host Richard Cloutier was tossing Murray some softball questions
about the cost of the museum ("$351
million. Period. Full stop.") when he asked what the $21.7
million in annual operating costs would cover.
"That pays for (cough)
salaries...it pays for operations, lighting, umm, it pays for our PILT,
which is Payment in Lieu of Taxes...So it pays for all the
elements...to heat...everything that is involved in running an
institution or a building." said Murray.
For the first time ever,
officials of the CMHR have said that the operating funding it gets from
the federal government will pay for utilities and taxes.
As late as 2011 they were saying they needed to "augment operating
funds to cover PILT". Prior to that they said they had
forgotten to include utilities and taxes in the money they needed each
year and would the federal government please cough up more cash to pay
Obviously the feds have said that the $45 million bailout they gave the
museum in 2011 was all the extra money they would get. This is a game
changer. Two months ago we wrote that fundraising for the
CMHR had collapsed.
Now it appears the prognosis is even worse.
Ever since Gail Asper, chief fundraiser for the Friends of the CMHR,
launched her hate campaign against Canada's Ukrainian community in
2011, fundraising has fallen off a cliff. They claim they raised $4
million in 2013, but since much of that is in installments, they're
actually pulling in a fraction of that each year.
All the government money has been spent as of the end of December, and
they've just started installing the exhibits. The only money to pay for
that is what the Friends can raise from outstanding IOUs and new money.
We thought the Friends would be responsible for covering the tax bill,
but it looks like the museum itself will pay out of operating funds.
That means the Friends will still have to backstop the museum as well.
The museum already owes more than $4 million in back taxes (your tax
bill could drop by 1 percent if they paid up) and will owe $8 million
or more next June. If this was a privately owned building it
would already be up for tax sale.
It gets even worse when the CMHR has to start paying back the $45
million advance it got. Starting in 2018 they will have six years to
pay off the advance out of operating funds. Say that's $8 million a
year (advance plus interest), on top of $4 million, or $5 million or $6
million a year for taxes and utilities and half the annual operating
funds are committed.
They'll have to sell an awful lot of t-shirts to make up the difference.
Stu Murray was less than convincing that the museum could do it.
He was asked to address the skepticism about the museum -- "that
two...five years from now you'll be back on CJOB doing a fundraiser..."
Well, he said, the museum has spaces to rent out, programming over and
above the regular admissions, and "additional events to create
additional revenue." Hazy, enough?
Murray said the rights museum won't undercut the admission price of
other art galleries and museums in the city.
The Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature charges $8 for adults and $6.60
for students and seniors for one venue, $21 and $17 respectively for
admission to the museum, science centre and Planetarium.
They would need 500,000
single adult admissions to pay off their tax bill each year.
He added: "If you would give us the opportunity to walk through the
doors and you don't like what you see, I'll refund your money."
Maybe he didn't realize what he was saying, but Murray actually
undermined his own boosterism.
"You can go to any city
in the world for a convention and have a great convention centre; we're
going to have a spectacular convention centre but the hook is you can't
do something around human rights like you can do it in Winnipeg. And
that's going to be a great, great angle for us."
"...If you just built a
square box and said I hope that people will come and see this because
of the subject matter, they wouldn't come. They're gonna come because
... I have taken personally about 3500 people, since I've been on the
job, through that building ... the wow factor is palpable. I mean
people feel it. In order to bring people to Winnipeg to talk about an
educational value around human rights the first thing that has to
happen was the right decision -- build an iconic building."
Get it? He knows people wouldn't cross the street to see a museum about
human rights, so
what $351 million really bought was a fancy building.
Winnipeg is going to get a new convention centre ( 8 blocks away) "and we're the anchor",
So far the CMHR is the anchor around the neck of taxpayers.
P.S. For those who were taught that the plural of roof is rooves ---
that's now considered archaic.
And for the record, wind chills of -51C like those we had all last week
equate to 60 below zero on the Fahrenheit scale. Why don't
weathermen say so?