Harper’s team makes a Hail Mary


Let’s compare notes.

Here’s one:

Statement by the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, on the Interim Chairperson of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

OTTAWA, December 20, 2011 – I am pleased to announce that Eric Hughes, Vice-Chairperson of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Board of Trustees, has accepted to perform the duties of Chairperson on an interim basis, effective December 31.

Here’s another:

“My background primarily has been as a chartered accountant, someone who starts businesses and grows businesses,” said Mr. Hughes, who has been vice-chair of the board for two years. “And so I look at this one as being another business with a lot of challenges because we’re trying to do everything, starting a business from the ground up with an enormously inspiring and very complicated building.”

Globe and Mail, yesterday

And a third:

“I wasn’t involved in Harper’s tentative leadership preparations until I was invited for late-afternoon drinks on 10 August [2001] at the 400 Club, a downtown Calgary business club that Stephen often used for political conversations. There I met Stephen and Ken Boessenkool, as well as… Eric Hughes, a university friend of Stephen…

“Eric Hughes had no campaign experience, but as an accountant he was prepared to manage our finances. … Hughes applied for credit-card facilities from MasterCard, Visa and American Express…

“[In 2003-2004, for the new united Conservative Party leadership campaign] The core of the campaign team would be much the same as in Stephen’s previous leadership race. I would be the manager… Eric Hughes the financial agent.”

— Tom Flanagan, Harper’s Team


One and the same! 

So a Harper friend of 30 years’ standing, who played key roles in both of his campaigns for national party leadership, is now in charge of Canada’s Most Troubled Museum Project.

The natural currents of cynicism will lead some observers to what I think is a false conclusion. I don’t think this is a plum patronage post handed to Hughes by the PM as reward for past services. Running the CMHR is no plum. It  should come with danger pay. As the Globe article linked above points out, the whole project is in constant danger of falling apart. And besides, Hughes has been on the board of the thing for two years already. What’s new is that he’s been hustled into the top spot after his slightly-less-connected predecessor resigned suddenly.

I think the connection runs the other way, and constitutes a kind of optimism. If your museum was sliding into a world of trouble, needed maybe $35 million to stay afloat, and hoped to persuade the government of Canada to rethink its decision to stop paying for cost overruns, who would you want running the board?

This museum’s already fascinating and it hasn’t even opened yet.


Harper’s team makes a Hail Mary

  1. Hail, Business! Business starts! Business grows! Business saves! Bow to the feet of business! Hail Patronage! Welcome fellow traveller to the High Chamber of Faith in the Invisible Hand. Need $35 million dollars? No problem, I see you already know how to genuflect.

    Just don’t build any Gazebos.

    • I’m bored with World of Warcraft; Uncle Doug, can you teach me to be a Marxist Maclean’s commenter too?  It looks fun and, er, not very difficult.  Lemme show you my chops, *ahem*:

      Bushitler Foetus Fetishist Steve Harper!!!  Texas oil racistsexisthomophobe Bush!!! Bush Jesusland abortion Freddie Mac Reformatorywhig Enron Jerry Falwell!!!

      (Too over the top?  Not over top enough?  Soft on Harper’s fascism?)

      • A good marxist would be able to defend the state expenditure in gazebos and museums.

        • Jets and jails! Jets and jails!  Fake Lake coathanger Nazi Council of Nicaea trickle down heteronormativetarianism!  

          • You are not well.

          • Just funnin’ ya Dougie; loosen up a little, you’re too tight.

      • A good Capitalist would be able to make a case for private investment in a boondoggle losing that much money.

        • A smarter capitalist would become a gazebo contractor with the right connections.

  2. This is what Hughes is saying:

    The new interim chairman for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is confident the institution can make up a funding shortfall without receiving another dime from Ottawa.

    Eric Hughes, a Calgary oil executive, said there is still great potential to raise funds for the Winnipeg project outside of Manitoba, especially from the corporate world.

    “We have done a spectacularly good job to date,” he said of the CMHR’s fundraising efforts. He called the response to the project in Manitoba “phenomenal.”

    Hughes, who will replace the departing Arni Thorsteinson effective Dec. 31 until a permanent chairman is named, said the funding well is far from dry outside the province’s borders.

    “This is a national museum. It’s not Manitoba’s museum. It just is in Manitoba,” he said late Wednesday. “In my vision, corporate sponsorships will be a significant way in which we move from where we are now to where we need to be.”


    • Maybe the banana-boycotting Albertans of the Ethical Oil organization, with a little help from the franchisees of the Cheesecake Cafe, will pony up some funds, considering their staunch support of human rights across the globe.

    • Eric is really good! He will do a great job!

  3. I still don’t understand how this project got so complicated. It shows you how important is to get the right people from the very beginning.

    It is actually very easy to get those kind of funds, I’m glad to see Eric on board he will do great!

  4. isn’t it amazing that the best person to be in charge of a multi-million dollar project is usually a close friend of someone in the Government? These politicians are shameless. Where are the technocrats that know what they are doing? Nobody knows a person that had work with other museums? and this is going to be paid with my taxes?

    • Hey … coulda been Bruce Carson …

  5. Why should it stop now. This was a simple story of political connections from the beginning with all the bases covered:

    Izzy/David  … Chretien/Martin Liberals
    Leonard  … Harper Conservatives
    Linda … Doer NDP

  6. When does the “Ethical Oil” wing open?

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