There has been a lot written about the cost overruns and fundraising woes of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. So much so that I'm beginning to think there's a problem. For example:
the museum's new interim chairman and its president also posted a letter on its website, confirming the construction budget had climbed to $351 million, a jump of $45 million, and they are looking to the private sector to make up the difference.Looking to the private sector for money in an economy that's disproportionately public sector might be a tough proposition. There is not an abundance of ultra-wealthy execs and entrepreneurs in Winnipeg. As an indicator: we only have six CEOs of publicly traded companies in "the 7-figure club". We have only two people or families on Canada's Rich 100 list -- at positions 14 and 98.
We are lucky to have some rich and very generous individuals in this city, but we are asking an awful lot from them. I can't speak for all them rich folk, I'll let their personal speakers do that, but if I were a multi-millionaire business owner in this city I would feel a bit like a tourist in Tijuana.
Certainly I want the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to succeed, I really do, but there are so many other worthy causes as well like hospitals, universities, and zoos and whatever else. If I were a Hartley Richardson or Paul Giesbrecht, would the CMHR make my list?
There is also no way that average peeps like you and I will make up the shortfall. I can give a few hundred bucks to a place like Siloam Mission and make a real difference, whereas that money would only be a drop in an ever-growing bucket if I gave it to CMHR, so guess where I'm going to put my money? There are literally hundreds of causes I could give to where I'd feel like I'm making a real difference.
What this comes down to is donor fatigue. There are too places for a benefactor or donor to put their money, and there simply is not enough money to go around. Especially for a project where the 'ask' is in the tens of millions of dollars, and rising. So, although you may scoff at my next suggestion, I think we need to give it serious consideration....
How to instantly raise $10 million for the CMHR
There is a pool of pre-donated and unused money right now, as we speak, sitting somewhere in Winnipeg. $10.3 million dollars. The money was raised for the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre.
Right now you're thinking there he goes again -- whining about Upper Fort Garry, but let's think about this:
> The Upper Fort Garry park and heritage site is still nothing more than a website and diorama. There is no sunk cost. Construction has not started. If you go there and look at it you will see absolutely nothing but a flat surface of concrete and rubble.
> The project still requires another $10 million to build ... and that's a pre-construction cost estimate. If, like with CMHR, costs escalate after shovels hit ground, it could be more. (In fact there was already a reference to $12 million in the paper but I lost the link.)
Where is that $10 million+ going to come from? Who on earth is going to have that kind of change kicking around to contribute to a giant traffic-accident-causing holographic fort and Louis Riel shrine after all the relentless fundraising and arm twisting to bail out the CMHR? Even if you like what the Friends of Upper Fort Garry have put together, it's hard to imagine them meeting their fund raising goals on the generosity of the private sector.
So I say, let's focus on the big project. The one that has the biggest impact, the most potential, and is already half complete. Divert the money there and scrap the UFG plan. Go back to plan "A": reserve the foot print of the fort for a more modest park/gathering space/market and open up the SW corner of the lot for development. Use the tax income from the development to fund the park.
There are some hitches with this plan, including:
- not all of the $10.3 million may be real. For example, $1.35 million of that might be based on fictional property value.
- Some of the donors may not want their money going to the museum instead of the park
That last one is not likely to be a problem, except perhaps the $1 million donated by the MMF. If I recall, much of the money was donated by crown corporations, although we don't really know how much because that info isn't public.
But ultimately that's how this all will have to end: the government will end up bailing out the CMHR, and if we go ahead with UFG, then that too. My guess is that provincial crown corporations like MPI, Manitoba Hydro and MLCC are going to pony up most of the cash so that it can be called a "donation" in the press releases, but one way or another it's coming from your pockets. I personally feel this is a bit too much, and would love to see the government be realistic about this and retract it's support and funding of UFG and direct that money to the CMHR. That's the key project in this city right now, and if we can help it out while developing an empty lot on Main Street, that's what I call a win-win.