Harper to miss CMHR opening

Global security issues PM's priority today

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OTTAWA — He signed off on the federal funds that made the museum dream a reality, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t be on hand to see the Canadian Museum for Human Rights come to life today.
Harper’s spokesman said the prime minister’s “schedule won’t permit him to attend.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/09/2014 (3060 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — He signed off on the federal funds that made the museum dream a reality, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t be on hand to see the Canadian Museum for Human Rights come to life today.
Harper’s spokesman said the prime minister’s “schedule won’t permit him to attend.”

The prime minister is preparing to speak at the United Nations next week for the first time since 2010. He is also managing a number of foreign affairs files, including Canadian military involvement in Ukraine and Iraq.

All day today he will be attending briefings on global security issues.

Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper has dispatched senior Manitoba minister and Heritage Minister Shelly Glover and Industry Minister James Moore in his place. Gov. Gen. David Johnston will also be at the opening ceremonies for the long-awaited museum at The Forks.

“It’s not as if the federal government won’t be well-represented,” said one source close to the prime minister.

Seven years ago, Harper flew to Winnipeg to confirm the federal government would step in to take over the project, providing not just capital dollars but annual operating funding so the museum could move forward.

“This museum, the realization of Izzy Asper’s vision, will celebrate and promote awareness of human rights in Canada and it will bring Canadian and international visitors to Winnipeg so they can see and hear the Canadian human rights story,” Harper said on April 20, 2007 at the Fairmont hotel in downtown Winnipeg.

Until that day, the dream of the museum had been quickly fading as fears grew over how the long-term operating funding would be raised. The biggest issue was Ottawa did not want to pay to operate a museum that was outside its control.

So Harper established the museum as the first national museum outside the Ottawa area, and it is now run as a federal institution, much like the Canadian War Museum and the National Gallery.

Ottawa is providing annual operating funding of $21.7 million.

Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin said he is disappointed Harper won’t be at the opening, but not because it is any kind of slight to the city or to the museum itself.

“He really does deserve credit for sponsoring the first national museum in the country outside the capital region and the operating funding that flows from that. The museum couldn’t have succeeded without that, and we really have to give credit where credit is due.”

This is the third national museum to open in the last decade.

In 2005, then-prime minister Paul Martin did attend the official opening of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. That opening ended a day of celebrations honouring Victory in Europe Day and the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

In 2011, Pier 21 in Halifax was reborn as a national museum. Harper did not attend that opening. Regional minister Peter MacKay went instead.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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