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CNEWS | 31Jan2012 | Paul Turenne

Human rights museum a flop?
Canadians not too keen to visit new 'Peg attraction: Poll

Although a majority of Canadians say they support the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, there's not a great deal of interest in actually visiting it.

According to a poll conducted by Abacus Data for QMI Agency, only 15% of Canadians say they're either very or somewhat likely to make a special trip to Winnipeg to visit the museum, which is still under construction in the Manitoba capital. In addition, 42% of respondents said they're either unlikely to visit the museum or not at all interested in going, even if they were already in Winnipeg for some other reason.

"At this point it doesn't seem like it's a big draw," said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data. "At least at first glance, there isn't a lot of interest in it. The good news for them is there's broad support. By and large, Canadians buy into the idea of the museum."

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 people across Canada two weeks ago, found that 57% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support the concept of the museum, while only 11% oppose it.

However, Colin Craig, Manitoba director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, noted the highest level of opposition -- 21% -- is found in the "central" region, comprising Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where the CMHR is being built.

Craig suggested that's because people in those provinces have heard more about cost overruns on the project, while Coletto said it's common to find support for public projects wane in polls the more detail is known.

We've heard from a growing number of Manitobans that they're concerned about the cost," Craig said. "What we do hope is those that do come will make the museum viable, because otherwise it will be taxpayers who pick up the burden."

A spokeswoman for the CMHR said museum officials needed time to review the poll results before commenting, and would provide their response Wednesday.

Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, senior vice-president of Tourism Winnipeg, said the numbers aren't a problem given that the museum isn't even open yet.

"It's not discouraging for me at all," she said. "This isn't surprising. I think it still has a lot to do with awareness. They're not going to start marketing it heavily before it's open."

Sturk-Nadeau said there's lots to be positive about in the poll, including that more than half of respondents said they'd go to the museum if they're in Winnipeg, a city that gets 2.6 million visitors per year.

If even 10% of the 33.4 million Canadians who live outside Manitoba decide to visit the museum, that's still well over 3 million people, Coletto added.