Blogspot | 18Apr2011 | blackrod

Monday, April 18, 2011

Your taxes go up as the mayor waives taxes for his millionaire friend, Gail Asper

Mayor Sam Katz is raising your land taxes so that millionaire Gail Asper won't have to pay hers on her pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

While you get dinged by a hike in frontage fees (the most regressive tax on your land, which hurts the poorest homeowners the most), Katz wants to waive the property taxes on the CMHR.

He says he's raising your taxes to pay the city's infrastructure deficit, but his friend Gail won't have to pay her share, you'll pay it for her.

Katz wants to save Gail Asper $3.6 million because she and her Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have run out of money and need millions more.

The CMHR has turned into a money pit.

They not only can't raise money to finish the museum, but they can't afford their taxes either.

So Katz wants to do Gail a personal favour by waiving the taxes on the museum and pretending the money will go instead to construction.

Except there is no money, it's all a shell game.

The proponents of the museum say they're still $25 million shy of what they need to finish building the CMHR. At least that's what they admit to. How deep the hole is really is anyone's guess.

What's certain is nothing they say can be trusted to be true.

They lied to the Senate when they vowed that any cost overruns would be paid by private sector donations. Now that they're drowning in red ink, they've gone running to governments to bail them out.

Two years ago they tried as hard as they could to keep secret as long as they could the fact they were $58 million over budget.

It was only after The Black Rod crunched the very public numbers and determined they were at least $55 million in the hole that they came clean.
They snipped $10 million out of their plans and laughed at how easy it would be to raise the rest.

Now, two years later, they've only managed to raise $20 million (if you believe them, of course) against the overruns. At that rate, they'll never raise the money they owe before the supposed opening date on Spring, 2013.

Even worse, it looks like the well has run dry. They've tapped everyone they know twice over, and now that they've managed to divide Canada's ethnic groups against the Asper-run board of trustees, the donations from the public have dried up.

Once the CMHR became a public institution, the federal government was on the hook to pay the property taxes. Since, by law, federal land is exempt from city taxes, they play a game whereby the federal department makes a 'payment in lieu of taxes' that's equal to the property tax bill.

The feds agreed to pay the CMHR $21 million a year in operating costs, which was to include the payment in lieu of taxes.

But Gail Asper and her geniuses budgeted to spend all that money on other expenses.

They forgot they needed to set aside money for the property tax bill, and for utilities.

Now they're left begging to cover those bills.

Sam Katz is taking Gail Asper's tin cup to Executive Policy Committee to get her property taxes wiped away. Last year the CMHR stiffed the city for $360,000 in property taxes (and only paid up after being shamed into it by The Black Rod).

Or did they? Reporter Jen Skerrett said Saturday the city only received $119,652 from the federal government in lieu of taxes on the CMHR. What happened to the rest of the taxes owed? Has Sam Katz already interfered with city tax collection to save Gail Asper?

Katz never fails to whine about the alleged infrastructure deficit, which rises and falls depending on whose pet projects are included at any given moment. But when faced with collecting millions of dollars from the Aspers, he always turns it down and gives them a present --- our money.

David Asper collected $4 million from the public purse for his failure to build a new football stadium. Why? It was a business deal gone bad. He wasn't acting as a consultant or agent for the city? He risked the money as a private entrepreneur and he failed. Why doesn't he give the $4 million to his sister so that she can PAY HER TAXES.

According to press accounts, Asper's company Creswin collected $4,079,556.34 for "architectural, legal, planning and communications work on the stadium project."

The compensation included :
"$1.8 million for architectural fees, $850,000 for legal fees, $660,000 for marketing and communications, $476,000 for business planning and development and $246,000 for administration and organization."

Why would the public pay him for his legal fees, his failed marketing, and his failed business plans?

Worse, instead of allowing any other private businessman to present a plan for a new football stadium, Katz agreed to the Asper plan to be paid 100 percent by taxpayers. He then agreed to give up all the entertainment tax plus the property taxes on the Polo Park stadium to finance the new stadium at the U of M. In short, Asper got his pet project built by taxpayers and the city gave up millions in taxes.

Now, we're asked to surrender another $3.6 million to, guess who, Gail Asper, for her pet project.

When, exactly is the city going to get anything back from the Aspers?

Oh, expect the argument that the CMHR is a great asset for the city. How?

It can't pay its taxes. It's sucking up money from every other charity in the city. And its going to cost millions to run.

But, but, but... what about the "conservative" estimate it will bring 250,000 visitors to Winnipeg every year?

We debunked that myth two years ago in a series of stories:

They've since refined their spin to say they expect 55,000 individual visitors, 25,000 from packaged tours, and 33,000 students brought by Rotary Clubs.

And the remaining 142,000?

Online visitors, of course.

Earlier this year the former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Gord Steeves, who sits with Sam Katz on Executive Policy Committee, told CBC News this:

"This has gone well beyond any sense of rational debate. At this time in our history as a province I think we, as a people, need to stand up and say this project needs to be stopped."

What was he talking about?
Bipole III.

But his words apply perfectly to the biggest boodoggle in Winnipeg, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Three years earlier, Steeves issued a news release on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He wrote:

“Canada's economy and quality of life and the health and safety of Canadians depend on the infrastructure our municipalities build and own, yet we don't have the resources to maintain it.” “If we don't act soon as a nation to tackle this deficit, we will see more catastrophic failures in our roads, bridges, water supply and other vital infrastructure. Continued delay is unthinkable.”

Roads. Bridges. Water supply.

Note what's not on the list of vital infrastructure.

Unwanted museums.

So how does the CMHR suddenly show up at the top of Sam Katz's list?

The mooching from the City of Winnipeg is only the start of the next scam.

Remember, THEY HAVE NO MONEY. The scam is to get enough to keep construction going until later this year, say during the provincial election, when they will admit they're skint, and throw themselves on the mercy of the politicians.

You can't let the project fail now, when it's almost built, they'll wail.

It only needs a little bit more money ($10 million, $15 million, $20 million) for this magnificent building, they'll cry.

Surely. Surely, you won't let it fail at this the eleventh hour, they'll plead.

And the politicians will open your wallets, again, and throw more millions at the Aspers.

Remember. We told you so.
Next: Dan Lett joins the smear campaign.

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