NEWS

Human rights museum opening delayed

12/20/2011 10:52 EST | Updated 02/19/2012 05:12 EST

Delays in opening the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are creating headaches in Winnipeg's tourism sector, while Ottawa says it won't give more money to the project.

Museum officials acknowledge that funding shortfalls, along with the development of the museum's exhibitions, are among the reasons why they're working towards opening the facility in 2014, a year later than its last estimate.

Officials had originally hoped to open the museum in 2012, but later set a goal of finishing construction in 2012 and opening in 2013.

"We're working towards 2014, we'll be able to confirm that. We're trying to provide people with a bit of a clearer timeline," museum spokesperson Angela Cassie told CBC News on Tuesday.

"Right now, all of our work plans are aligning for an opening in 2014, but that date is contingent on a few factors."

Cassie said officials are reviewing the museum's estimated cost, which is currently pegged at $310 million.

Winnipeg Conservative MP Steven Fletcher said the federal government will not give the project any additional funding.

"You know, the federal government's been very clear that the $100 million, plus the $23 million [per] year forever, is going to be the contribution," Fletcher told reporters.

Cassie said the museum will look to the private sector to make up the budget shortfall.

"There's a growing campaign happening both nationally and internationally, and so there's a lot of untapped potential to be able to help us achieve our goal," she said.

Event planners scrambling

Many of Winnipeg's tourism planners had been promoting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights — assuming it would open in 2013 — in their pitches to convention and event organizers, in the hopes of bringing events to the city.

"When we were trying to go after conventions [for] 2013 … we talked about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, [and] this was part of their focal purpose for wanting to come," said Chantal Sturk-Nadeau of Tourism Winnipeg.

Sturk-Nadeau said Tourism Winnipeg is now trying to reschedule at least six conventions that are scheduled to come to Winnipeg in 2013.

"We have to all revisit what we're saying, how we're marketing," she said.

"It definitely will have an impact on our convention centre and the hotels and our restaurants, where we've been anticipating that [opening] time being 2013," she added.

Officials with the Winnipeg Convention Centre told CBC News they're worried about potentially losing some conventions with the museum delay.

But at The Forks, where the museum is being built, officials said they're not too worried about the delay, even if it means they won't see an estimated 250,000 new visitors coming to the area so soon.

"So it takes another year or two? It shouldn't harm us at all," said Jim August of the Forks North Portage Partnership.

Adding to the museum's current woes are questions about how archeological digs are being conducted at the construction site.

As well, the museum's board of trustees is dealing with a change at the top, after Winnipeg businessman Arnie Thorsteinson resigned as chairman last week. Officials say vice-chair Eric Hughes will act as interim chairman for the time being.

MORE:cbcNews