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17th Annual Teddy Government Waste Award Winners

March 04, 2015
17th Annual Teddy Government Waste Award Winners
  • Federal – Former MP and Mayor of London Joe Fontana for criminal convictions for defrauding taxpayers – and still collecting his pension
  • Provincial – Ontario’s Ministry of Energy for “smart meters” fiasco
  • Municipal – Halifax Councillor Brad Johns for buying a $25,000 robotic Christmas tree
  • Lifetime Achievement – TransLink for over a decade of waste and tax hikes

OTTAWA, ON: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today held its 17th annual Teddy Waste Awards ceremony, celebrating the best of the worst in government waste. CTF Federal Director Aaron Wudrick served as host, joined by the CTF’s pig mascot Porky the Waster Hater. The awards event took place on Parliament Hill at the Charles Lynch Press Conference Theatre.

The Teddy, the pig-shaped award given annually by the CTF to government’s worst waste offenders, is named for Ted Weatherill, a former federal appointee who was turfed in 1999 for submitting a panoply of dubious expense claims, including a $700 lunch for two.

“We’re tough on all government waste, but sometimes the best way to strike a nerve is to tell some of the most absurd stories,” said Wudrick. “And sadly, the capacity for government to dream up new ways to waste money seems infinite.”

Federal Teddy Winner: Former MP, Cabinet Minister and Mayor of London Joe Fontana

In June 2014, Mr. Fontana was convicted of breach of trust, fraud and uttering forged documents. In 2005, while still a sitting MP, he altered the contract for his son’s wedding reception at the Marconi Club in London, Ontario, and submitted it to the House of Commons for a $1,700 reimbursement, claiming it was actually for a function with the Minister of Finance.

“The real outrage here is that in spite of being convicted of this shameless abuse of taxpayer dollars, Mr. Fontana will continue to collect his gold-plated $122,000 MP pension – which will add up to almost $4 million if he lives to age 90 – courtesy of Canadian taxpayers,” said Wudrick.

Provincial Teddy Winner: Ontario’s Ministry of Energy for expensive/broken/flammable smart meters

In 2004, Ontario’s Ministry of Energy hatched a plan to help reduce energy consumption: installing 4.8 million smart meters across the province, at a cost of $1 billion. In her 2015 annual report, the province’s Auditor General showed that the program has been an unmitigated disaster: cost overruns of $900 million and counting (nearly doubling the original cost); more than 800,000 meters transmitting no data; and 23 incidents of the meters sparking fires. Not to mention that power use during peak periods didn’t drop at all – it actually went up.

“Ontario has certainly provided a raft of egregious examples of waste in recent years,” continued Wudrick. “But the smart meters boondoggle ticks off so many eye-watering boxes: massive costs; unintended consequences; poor value for money, and of course a total failure to achieve the original policy objective.”

Municipal Teddy Winner: Halifax Regional Municipality Councillor Brad Johns

Halifax Regional Municipality Councillors receive an annual discretionary account of $94,000 to spend on their constituents needs – usually on such traditional public goods as parks, playgrounds and maintenance of common areas. Evidently District 19 Councillor Brad Johns feels his constituents are not much in need of such things: he chose to instead spend $25,000 on an 18-foot talking Christmas tree.

“The residents of Middle and Upper Sackville must be already awash in public amenities,” noted Wudrick “How else could a politician possibly arrive at the conclusion that the purchase of a giant robotic Christmas tree would be at the top of his constituents’ wish list?”

Lifetime Achievement Teddy: Vancouver’s TransLink

Last year’s Lifetime Achievement Teddy winner, the Senate of Canada, is a tough act to follow. But this year’s winner, TransLink, is no slouch either. They were a nominee in 2013. They were municipal winners in 2014. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that with such pedigree they have captured our most prestigious award. Indeed, TransLink’s record of waste is so long, it could fill a calendar (so the CTF did just that).

“Having wasted millions and millions of taxpayer dollars on things that didn’t move a single person a single inch, TransLink now wants a 0.5% sales tax,” said Wudrick. “This is not an organization that deserves the public’s confidence – or more of their money.”

Other nominees included:

Federal – Public Works and Government Services Canada: $65,000 to repurchase a bulldozer it had confiscated and sold for $5,555 rather than destroying it as originally ordered by a court.

Federal – Canadian Human Rights Commission: For allowing David Langtry, acting commissioner to rack up expenses of over $760,000 while commuting from Winnipeg to Ottawa – for eight years and counting.

Provincial – Former Alberta Premier Alison Redford: For her ill-advised penthouse “skypalace” – for which the creation of the plans alone cost $173,000 – and which resulted in such absurdities as an orphaned $832,000 Zamboni storage shed which had its accompanying skating rink cancelled due to cost overruns.

Provincial – The New Brunswick Liquor Commission: For spending $124,000 to purchase 40,000 1.89-litre growlers, to be sold at $10 apiece, so that customers could buy craft beer from taps installed in three NBLC stores. Unfortunately, NBLC customers brought their own growlers, and only sold 2,718 were sold.

Municipal – The City of Ottawa: For spending $45,000 on badminton-shaped light fixtures which honoured 1933 world badminton champion Jack Purcell…instead of the intended honouree, a completely different Jack Purcell, who was a 1950s Ottawa icon who fixed broken hockey sticks and sharpened skates for children.

Municipal – Former Mayor of Brampton Susan Fennell: A new audit found that ex-Mayor Fennell had racked up $172,608 in inappropriate expenses, on such things as flight passes, an on-call limousine service, and IQ tests.

Click here for our detailed backgrounder on all 2015 Teddy award nominees.

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For more information please contact:
 
Federal Director Aaron Wudrick at 800-265-4552 or 613-234-6554
or 613-295-8409 (cell)

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