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Blogspot | 30Nov2012 | blackrod

CMHR reaches for your wallet again

If you thought this summer's $60 million government bailout of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was the last of your money going into this white elephant, then you haven't read their latest corporate plan.

They want more. Lots more. Details in a minute...

The museum's board of trustees realizes it has a great big horking credibility problem.

Among the seven things the Museum "needs" to do is:

* Restore and retain public confidence, developing and sustaining momentum and support until opening and beyond.

Ya think?

Just because the museum proponents ...

* lied to the Senate by promising that taxpayers would never be asked for more than the initial $100 million federal start-up money

* deliberately lowballed the cost of the project at $265 million to get government approval --- and financing

* lied that the $310 million new cost was the bottom line guaranteed final figure

* lied that the museum would pay its property taxes

* lied to the country's ethnic communities about the preeminence of the Holocaust over their stories

Now why would anybody think the CMHR board was untrustworthy?

They realize, sort of, they've developed a problem getting people on board.

"While we have had much success in positively engaging a multitude of representative groups from communities across Canada, there are some communities who have not expressed the same level of support for the Museum. We will continue to build bridges with these communities and will work with them wherever possible to try to alleviate their concerns."

"Some communities"?

Like the Ukrainians who board member Gail Asper smeared as anti-Semites because they dared question the hierarchy of genocides the CMHR was creating, putting the Holocaust at the top with the rest of the world's atrocities also-rans?

When Gail Asper was engaging in her hate campaign against the Ukrainian community, the board of the CMHR didn't repudiate her. CEO Stu Murray kept giving speeches about welcoming a diversity of opinion even as Gail Asper tried to villify and silence an entire ethnic community. Eric Hughes, the newly appointed Chairman, sat on the board and failed to speak up to stop Gail Asper's vile attacks. Only after donations dried up like a puddle in a heatwave did they try to "build bridges".

When she is removed from the board of trustees, then will the damage she's done be alleviated.

The corporate plan looks ahead four years and projects revenue and expenses. We learn, for example, that the cost of exhibits is going to be $52.7 million. That's a hefty increase over the $34 million they estimated four years ago.

The CMHR foresees that operating expenses are going to climb ever higher than, you know, expected. In the 2012-2013 fiscal year they're getting $21.7 million from the federal government to cover operating expenses. And that's when the museum isn't even built.

Next year, 2013-2014, they'll get the same amount. That's a year when the museum won't even be opened. But, they say, they'll get by.

The year after, things go off the rails. In 2014-2015 they're only getting $21.7 million but expenses are expected to climb to $24 million.

And by 2015-2016 those projected expenses have jumped to $24,600,000 while the feds are only writing cheques for $21.7 million.

The Museum says it expects to cover the shortfalls through its own fundraising. (Ha ha. Now don't laugh. This is serious.) They're figuring on raising $1.5 million from admissions and museum memberships, $600,000 from selling food, and $700,000 from t-shirts and other items sold in the gift shop.

You don't think the fact that the museum's director of finance, director of facilities and manager of marketing and sales have all gone out the door this month will affect these numbers, do you? Or is that vice versa?

The CMHR has a backup plan, in any event, a plan its only hinting at but which follows a well worn path.

"The Museum’s annual parliamentary appropriation is $21.7 million -- an amount that was determined from a comprehensive, yet preliminary, business plan commissioned by Friends and completed six years ago in February 2006."

Sound familiar? The annual operating funding is based on a "preliminary" business plan "completed six years ago." Oh, woe.

Isn't it obvious that it's hopelessly out of date and needs to be upgraded --- as in GIVE US MORE MONEY.

This is exactly the scam pulled when the building costs went out of control. Suddenly the "final figure" became only an estimate, superceded by unforeseen reality which required a $60 million bailout from governments.

How much more do they want? Well, start with that pesky problem of property taxes.

As a federal institution they don't legally have to pay taxes to the city, but the government has accepted a moral obligation to make payments-in-lieu of taxes on federal buildings. The CMHR corporate plan reveals for the first time ever that token payments on the museum's tax bill have been made by Public Works and Government Services Canada, not the CMHR out of its multi-million dollar operating funds.

The federal government has paid $225,000 to cover a portion of the tax bill for 2009, 2010,and 2011. The CMHR actually already owes over $500,000, which includes $361,000 in assessed taxes, $118,000 that was mysteriously removed from their bill without any explanation, and at least $50,000 in arrears that for some unexplained reason aren't being charged by the City of Winnipeg.

Once the museum is open, it will get the full tax bill which has been estimated at anywhere from $5 million to $9 million for the $300 million structure on prime riverfront property, not a penny of which the CMHR has because they, ahem, forgot to budget for it in their operating expenses.

The most recent corporate plan doesn't mention it, but a previous one did, they also didn't budget for utilities.

Are they expecting Manitoba Hydro to waive their electricity and heating bills? Winnipeg to forget the water bill (which just went up)?

Hydro cuts off service to the poor for non-payment; will they heat and light the pet project of millionaires for free?

Maybe somebody can ask at the coming annual meeting of the CMHR on Dec. 6, 2012.