"The numbers could go up slightly, but we know we really want to focus in the next two years to get the funds raised as quickly as possible," Gail Asper, chairwoman of the museum's fundraising group, said Tuesday.
Asper would not comment on how much extra money might be needed. She explained it depends on how quickly the rest of the private funds can be raised, because the group is paying interest on a government-backed loan.
"There's no point really in speculating on that. We know that $150 million (in private donations) is our goal and we want to raise it as quickly as possible."
Asper and others have been working to close the funding gap on a museum that has stirred up controversy because of its spiralling costs.
Originally pushed a decade ago by Asper's father, the late media mogul Izzy Asper, the museum was projected to cost $260 million. But as time went by, construction costs escalated — first to $310 million, then $351 million — and governments at all levels faced increasing requests for money.
In 2007, the federal government essentially took over the project, deemed it the first national museum outside of the Ottawa-Gatineau region and committed to cover its projected operating costs of $21.7 million a year.
The federal and Manitoba governments, along with Winnipeg city hall, had earlier agreed to put up a total of $160 million in construction costs. The remaining money was to come from private donations.
The project still seemed on shaky ground until this summer when the federal government provided a $35-million interest-free loan and the Manitoba government put up a loan guarantee for another $35 million.
It is that provincially backed loan that has interest accumulating.
While fundraisers are now within sight of their final goal, donations appear to be coming in at a slower pace. Two years ago, the group had raised $125 million in private donations. Only $11 million has come in since then.
Still, the project is no longer under threat. The federal loan and provincial loan guarantee are enough to cover all construction costs and allowed the museum's governing body to hire construction companies for the remainder of the work.
The last piece of glass on the museum's exterior tower was put in place last week. Attention is now on the interior.
"The next phase is really the exhibits, the fabrication, the fit-out and we're just in the process of issuing those (contracts)," said Stuart Murray, the museum's chief executive officer.
If donations dry up, the Manitoba government would be on the hook for some of the $35 million in loan guarantees.
Premier Greg Selinger praised the museum's fundraisers Tuesday, saying the public funding is relatively small.
"People have to recognize that the Friends of the Canadian Human Rights Museum have raised $130 million-plus. It's the largest private contribution to a national museum that's ever been organized ... it's a major achievement."
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said it is not opposed to the new museum, but has criticized the project's spiralling costs.
"It's the politicians that need to be looking out for the interests of taxpayers. They allowed a project to proceed without having all of the finances in place, and that's why we're having to see governments bail out the project," said Colin Craig, the federation's Manitoba director.Suggest a correction