Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Canadian Museum for Human Rights - Time to Start Protecting Taxpayers

Even though the Canadian Museum for Human Rights held its sod turning ceremony just five months ago, the museum has already announced that it will need more money to complete the project - $45 million from government and the private sector to be precise.

How much of the $45 million taxpayers will end up paying for remains to be seen, however, all three levels of government would be wise to protect taxpayers by heeding the CTF's advice and clearly lay out who is responsible for overruns before the project continues.

Although it's fair to assume that a good portion of Manitoba taxpayers support funding the project, it's also to fair to ask when enough is enough. Given all three levels of government have already kicked in over $160 million, ìsn't that a sufficient contribution from John and Jane taxpayer?

While the risk of taxpayers having to pick even more of the capital cost for this project is great, the greater risk is actually on the operating side.

Consider what has been happening with the amount the museum will require from the federal government each year once it's operational.

As you can see here, the Clinton Global Initiative noted in 2005 that the museum would only run an annual $15 million deficit.

However, the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights noted on page 8 of their 2005 Annual Report that the annual operating deficit would be much closer to $12 million.

In 2007, Maclean's Magazine noted the project would need $14 million in annual federal funding.

Hold on as we fast forward to 2009. According to the museum's corporate plan, the facility will need at least $21.7 million in annual federal support. Further, as noted on page 11, this figure could rise by $5-9 million if the museum is required to pay taxes just like other federal museums.

While the museum has some public support, it`s not support at any cost. As the capital and operating costs continue to soar, our elected officials need to step in and start looking out for the interests of taxpayers.

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