MacLaren Art Centre: Status March 2004

Statement from Rod Burns,
President MacLaren Board of Directors

News Conference (p. 1)

Right off the top there are a few things that I want to make very clear:

• The MacLaren Art Centre is not under investigation by the Canadian Revenue Agency or any other organization.
• The MacLaren Art Centre has always conducted itself according to the guidelines set out by all regulatory bodies.

The MacLaren Art Centre’s main objective is to enhance the arts in this community – to bring People to Art – and in achieving this goal has always conducted itself in an appropriate manner. That is the truth, but unfortunately the truth has not been represented by certain parties in this community. There is no doubt that the MacLaren’s reputation has been horribly damaged by untruths, innuendos and an unwillingness of certain parties to see and accurately represent the truth. I would like to share with all of you right now everything that has happened within the last year with regards to the Rodin transaction that has been at the centre of so many questions. We want everyone to hear the truth and to set the record straight, once and for all.

As all of you already know, the MacLaren Art Centre was to be the recipient of a very significant donation of art from IDEAS Foundation, a registered Canadian charitable foundation. Funds from IDEAS were required to be directed toward the purchase of specified art work – in particular 510 Auguste Rodin bronzes. These bronzes were to be sold and used to secure the financial future of the MacLaren and to fulfill the vision of ArtCity for this community.

What some of you may not know is that the donation was made possible through a tax advantage investment. Tax advantage investments, such as the one used to raise funds for the IDEAS foundation, are not uncommon and quite legal. However, they tend to be a thorn in the side of the Canadian Revenue Agency – who works diligently to disallow these kinds of tax benefits. In many cases, disallowed benefits are appealed to the tax court of Canada and there are several examples of the tax court overturning CRA decisions.

What I am telling you now is relevant because CRA has amended its rules responding to the type of tax advantage system that was used by IDEAS to give their donors tax receipts. And, as of last week CRA has disallowed the tax benefit on a portion of donation given by IDEAS.

• What is extremely important for all of you to understand is that CRA has no issue with the MacLaren Art Centre as the recipient of the donation of art.
• The MacLaren played no part in raising the funds for IDEAS or in organizing the tax advantage structure which was used for the purchase of the bronzes. REPEAT
• CRA’s decision to disallow a portion of the tax advantage investment has no bearing on the MacLaren as the intended recipient of the art donation.
• Despite CRA’s decision, the MacLaren is entitled to receive all of the art work purchased with the IDEAS donation.

There have been people who have raised questions about the legitimacy of the IDEAS donation. And, there have been insinuations that some how the MacLaren has been involved in something inappropriate. Last week this came to a head when a report aired stating that a CRA investigation has or is taking place at the MacLaren.

I want to make it clear right now that these reports are categorically untrue, unfounded and quite frankly disturbing for not only the MacLaren Art Centre but also for CRA. We spoke with CRA last week who confirmed "that there is no investigation taking place at the MacLaren and that they are quite concerned that this inaccuracy was made public."

Since that report, the Barrie police chief has written a letter stating that the MacLaren has never been and is not currently under investigation by Barrie Police Services. The unfortunate part is that the damage resulting from this irresponsible report may already be done. Since the beginning, the people who have been the most vocal in questioning our conduct, have either never taken the time (despite numerous requests) to meet with us or are unable or unwilling to understand the facts. This latest report is final straw in a situation that has spiraled out of control.

There was a time when we were apprehensive about publicly discussing the details of this commercial transaction that had yet to be completed. There are perfectly obvious and acceptable reasons as to why it isn’t a good idea discuss commercial transactions before they are complete. After unrelenting media pressure we made a decision to speak publicly about this transaction. Our attempts to address the situation have been met with mixed success. In many cases, our explanations about this transaction were confused or misrepresented – leaving the community even more confused.

What concerns me the most is I am not sure how an organization – that depends on public funding for its survival – recovers and regains the confidence of the community when the facts are continuously so misrepresented. I would like to tell you right now that no one in this community should be concerned about the MacLaren’s conduct. As the recipient of the IDEAS donation, the MacLaren has done nothing wrong. CRA has confirmed this. And, this is the truth.  Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story.

Page 2 of this statement

Read the article by James Adams in the Toronto Globe and Mail of 10 March 2004 

Read the MacLaren Press Release of 10 March 2004 




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