Home > Holodomor | Ukrainophobia | Demjanjuk | d&d (Furman, Odynsky, Katriuk) | Zuzak Letters |

Winnipeg Sun, 23Dec2011; Tom Brodbeck

$400K for CMHR office renovations is ridiculous

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights spared no expense renovating a temporary office for up to 75 staff in 2009, blowing a staggering $420,000 in retrofits at least five years before the museum is even slated to open.

It never ends with these guys.

CMHR moved into the fourth floor of 269 Main Street three years ago, office space museum officials say was “bare” and in need of refurbishment. So they thought nothing of blowing close to a half-million dollars on a new boardroom and reception area, among other enhancements.

“When the CMHR leased its current space at 269 Main Street, the space was bare,” said museum spokesperson Angela Cassie in an email. “We spent $420,000 on leasehold improvements to make it useable for the years we’d need it prior to moving into the new building.”

Which won’t be until 2014 at the earliest.

Cassie said most of the office furniture was donated. But taxpayers are on the hook for $219,000 a year to lease the fourth-floor office, Cassie confirmed.

That’s more than $1.5 million in office space costs over five years, prior to the opening of the museum.

Meanwhile, the CMHR now employs 59 full-time staff.

Seriously, they couldn’t find office space somewhere that didn’t need refurbishing? Of all the office space the federal government has in Winnipeg, they couldn’t locate some temporary space to house a few staff somewhere?

Cassie said they shopped around the area and found the space at 269 Main Street was competitively priced. Of course, it did need nearly a half-million in renovations.

Cassie said it was important staff worked near the site of the museum.

“It was important to be near the site as we spend a lot of time between the spaces with donors, delegations, and other people interested in learning more about our project,” said Cassie.

Um, this is Winnipeg. You can drive pretty much anywhere in less than 30 minutes. Museum officials could easily have found cheaper digs that didn’t require renovations somewhere in or near the downtown. And there’s no reason they need 59 full-time staff on the payroll.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, though, their mindset isn’t set on frugal. It’s set and locked on lavish, which is why they’re already spending more than $10 million a year in operating costs. And it’s why museum officials want Ottawa to increase their operating grant, which they won’t get.

We told you two weeks ago that Heritage Minister James Moore said there would be no funding increase for the museum.

Now museum officials say they have to delay the opening of this new palace because they don’t have the money to tender out contracts for the inside of the museum.

Well maybe if they didn’t blow all their money on renovating a temporary office, on travel costs for CEO Stuart Murray and on the salaries and benefits of 59 full-time staff — three years before the museum is even open — they would have the finances to equip the inside of the museum.

But that’s not how they’ve approached this project.

They thought taxpayers should just write them a blank cheque.

Well, it looks like they’ve finally hit a wall and will have to figure out how to run this thing with the money already allotted to them.

At least they can do that from the comfortable surroundings of their newly-renovated board room.