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Speech Delivered by Mr. Patrick O’Reilly to the Commercial Realtor Division Winnipeg Realtors Association on Monday, February 5, 2009

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I'm very happy to be with you this morning to talk about Winnipeg's, and indeed Canada's most exciting project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The Museum has been close to the hearts of Manitobans for a number of years, as they have nurtured the dream and watched it grow. This dream grew beyond the borders of the city, with private citizens from across the country coming forward to financially support this dream. And now, the dream has finally become reality, not just for Manitoba, but for all of Canada. The CMHR, as a national Museum, has the distinction of being the first national museum created in over 40 years and the first national museum located outside of the National Capital Region. It is an important statement in a vast, geographically diverse country to say that our national and cultural institutions can and should be located in other large urban centres in Canada.

National Museums play an essential role in preserving and promoting the heritage of Canada and all its people throughout Canada and abroad; in contributing to the collective memory and sense of identity of all Canadians; and to serve as a source of inspiration, research, learning and entertainment that belongs to all Canadians.

I think most of you know about the Museum's incredible architecture and the leading edge visitor experience that is being developed. What I'd like to impress upon you most today are the economic benefits of this project. The Museum will bring with it many new jobs during construction and as a major cultural operation, from 140 to 180 full and part-time jobs will be created over the next three years and that means we will spend a lot of time with recruiters looking for educated, skilled, and passionate employees.

They tell me that Winnipeg is one of the hardest cities to recruit people to and one of the hardest to recruit people from. That says a lot about Winnipeg and I can honestly say that I get it. True, the winters are cold and we can all do with less of that, but the warmth of the people here is remarkable. This is a truly cosmopolitan city that offers all the same things large urban centre offer, great arts and culture, sports and recreation, and fantastic restaurants (yes I have a few favourites) but with a warmth and character of a smaller centre.

Before I begin let me share with you the answer to the burning question — when will the Museum be built? Our project is 'shovel ready' to use a popular phrase these days. Construction is set to begin in the next couple of months and will take an estimated 36 months. You will be able to see the fencing going up around the site in the next 2 weeks, the site will be prepared over the next month, and the first caissons and pilings will go into the ground shortly thereafter. Our projected opening date is the spring of 2012 and believe me, there is a lot of work to be done between now and then. It is a really exciting time!

As I've said before, you may be familiar with the Museum and its vision. What you may be less familiar with is our vision for Winnipeg. As realtors, you know that real estate is affected most by local market conditions and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is Winnipeg's catalyst for rejuvenation. Job creation, increased visitor spending, tax revenues generated both during construction and once the museum is open, as well as the potential for spin-off businesses, will all help stimulate our local economy.

So let's consider some statistics, provided by the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics:

  • Direct jobs created during construction are estimated to be 2040 (person-years)
  • Indirect employment created during construction of approximately 1500 person-years in Manitoba and 4000 person years in all of Canada (including Manitoba)
  • Direct capital expenditures approximately $265 million and annual operational expenditures of $21.7 million
  • Total visitor expenditures are estimated at $25.7 million per year.
  • The estimated additional provincial and federal tax collections resulting from the construction activity is $75 million, from operations is $7 million/annually and from the visitor spending an additional $8 million/annually.

As these statistics demonstrate, the Museum will help grow Manitoba's economy. Yet economic growth should not be happenstance, it should be well planned in order to maximize the benefits. I have created the position of Director of Marketing and Partnerships, filled by Kim Jasper. Her role is to develop purposeful partnerships with a wide variety of industry sectors and partners such as your organization, to help ensure that we pursue every opportunity to its fullest. There are many mutually beneficial relationships that will help revitalize our city, we are limited only by our imagination. I can tell you, I'm getting to know Kim's imagination and I suspect it's limitless.

The Museum has already begun to forge many important partnerships in the area of education as well, including those with the University of Winnipeg, Global College and Library and Archives Canada. While the physical home is not yet built, we knew it was important to begin the real work of the Museum —exhibiting and telling stories. These partnerships have allowed us to launch our first modest online exhibition called "Everyone has the right: A Canadian and the Words that Changed the World." The exhibition explores the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by a Canadian John Peters Humphrey. Our journey of discovery and awe, of dialogue and controversy, of reflection and inspiration has begun. I encourage you to visit our website at www.humanrightsmuseum.ca to explore this great exhibit.

We are also exploring partnerships with various schools and provincial Departments responsible for Education across the country. We believe that the tools that we can develop within the school will support and enhance what educators are already trying to pull together to facilitate learning about issues such as empathy, bullying, and social responsibility.

In addition to the economic benefits, there are educational, cultural, social and spiritual benefits –as Winnipeg becomes a human rights city – researchers, scholars, students, international conferences – people converging from every part of the world to discuss and debate human rights, helping to increase awareness and ultimately, call people to action.

If you build a great attraction, great things will follow. Winnipeg is already rich with diverse and unique attractions and the Museum looks forward to working with a wide variety of partners to help realize our city's full potential.

As realtors, I know you are all keenly aware of the effects of the current recession. An article in the Winnipeg Free Press last week indicated that while Winnipeg house sales are down, prices aren't, meaning the value of being located here is still holding. We hope to capitalize on that value and recruit people here to make sure the house sales stay robust, while offering challenging opportunities to local graduates and highly-skilled professionals, encouraging them to stay home. I firmly believe this city, and this project, will attract good people. There is a definite buzz about Winnipeg — the new airport, the MB Hydro building, the downtown and Exchange District revitalizations and of course the Museum.

As commercial realtors, the potential the Museum has to create spin-off businesses is of great importance. Increased visitors means the need for more amenities – new restaurants, new hotels, new attractions, new shops – all of which will result in more commerce sales and leases. The ripple effects will be felt across many industry sectors, including yours.

This museum is intended to feature all our stories – including our stories of economic, social and educational success and failures.
The effects of globalization, and the realization of how interconnected our economies really are, have become self-evident during the current international financial crisis. While economists, bankers, business leaders, and political leaders work together to find solutions to restart our economies, we must not lose sight of issues such as poverty, armed conflict, homelessness, hate and oppression in the modern day. Will we find ourselves asking questions like, "Can the world afford to intervene in the next Darfur?" "What is the impact of these difficult times on children's rights?"

We can also learn from the past. We can examine previous financial slowdowns and the Great Depression to learn about the impact that they had on international relations, protection of the disadvantaged and other related human rights topics. During times of financial peril, we must protect our fundamental rights, but also, consider what our responsibilities are as Canadians, and as global citizens. Forging ahead with the development of an institution that will be a venue to objectively discuss and debate these questions will demonstrate that though we are a young nation, we recognize that we have a lot to share, and even more to learn. Let us work together to harness the imagination, passion, and vision of this project.

I look forward to meeting with more of you personally to speak about partnering with the Museum and encourage you all to consider the possibilities for our city, province and country. We are ready to work alongside you and can't wait to get started!

Thank you.