6th Annual Teddies Waste Awards
March 01, 2004
Taxpayers Federation Honours Sponsorship Scandal, Manitoba Arts Council, and Adrienne Clarkson
Ottawa: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) held its sixth annual Teddies Waste Awards Ceremony to honour the best of the worst in government spending at a black tie news conference today on Parliament Hill. CTF Federal Director, John Williamson, acted as master of ceremonies.
The Teddies are named for Ted Weatherill, a former senior public servant, who was terminated in 1999 for "expenses incurred by him - incompatible with his position as Chairman of the Canada Labour Relations Boards," according to the Office of the Minister of Labour. In the spirit of the entertainment awards season, Teddies are awarded annually to a public office holder, civil servant, department or agency that most exemplifies government waste, overspending, over-taxation, excessive regulation, lack of accountability, or any combination of the five.
"It has been a blockbuster year for government waste," said Mr. Williamson. "Taxpayers are told their governments need more money to pay for improved services and infrastructure, yet many millions of tax dollars were spent without proper oversight or wasted on boondoggles. Our Teddies are an appropriate way to give the people who fleece Canadian taxpayers the recognition they so richly deserve."
Best Remake of "The Madness of King George: "Former Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski over revelations of massive expenses - some $500,000 over two years - which were not fully disclosed before a Parliamentary Committee. Bowing to public pressure, Mr. Radwanski eventually resigned, but only after his staff revolted and Members of Parliament threatened to de-throne him.
Worst Adaptation of suspense thriller - Silence of the Hogs: Co-written and co-directed by former Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano - who also has a starring role in this national $250-million blockbuster - the Quebec sponsorship scandal will likely have many more sequels. It is a story of lost innocence, betrayal by ranking government members, and taxpayers' rage. A 2002 sneak preview of early trailers signaled the scheme was about more than contracts awarded to GroupAction and Ottawa paying $1.5-million for three identical reports. The Auditor-General recently revealed $100-million was paid to firms for little or no work. Will Gagliano's upcoming Commons committee appearance leave audiences asking, "Who done it "
Lord of the Frequent Flyer Points: In fiscal 2002/03, MP Rick Laliberte (Churchill River) spent $310,000 on travel, making him Canada's highest flying lawmaker. Responding to CTF questions about his spending levels, Mr. Laliberte explained his spending reflected the true cost of travelling to his constituents - not just the good people of Churchill River, Saskatchewan - but to what he termed Middle Canada. Did you encounter any hobbits on your journeys, Mr. Laliberte
Worst Adaptation of "Breakfast at Tiffany's: "This is the story of Charles Boyer, a young public servant in Ottawa, who is kept by a prominent, older woman. Mr. Boyer dinged taxpayers for almost $30,000 over a two-year period while his boss, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps was seeking the Liberal leadership. One memorable scene has Mr. Boyer rushing from restaurant to restaurant on June 12, 2002, charging taxpayers for two separate dinners. (The first for $102 at an Ottawa-area Japanese restaurant and a second $397 meal in Little Italy.)
Toy Story III - Biggest Visual Effects Flop: Director General of Audits at Public Works and Government Services Norman Steinberg's $174,581 purchase of electronic gear, including a $19,000 plasma television. Other taxpayer-funded expenses were $60,000 in computer software since 1999, a $3,200 Sony VAIO Picture Book notebook computer, a $22,181 home entertainment unit, and $6,400 for furniture, including a comfy sofa.
Federal Award Winner:
"And the federal Teddy goes to the sponsorship scandal, the Silence of the Hogs. Special thanks to all Canadian taxpayers for giving the Government of Canada the means to pour $100-million into the pockets of Liberal-friendly advertising firms," said Williamson as he unveiled the first 2004 Teddy, a beautiful golden sow.
Worst Use of Props - Pizza 9-1-1: The Ontario city of Kawartha Lakes' fire department has offered to deliver pizzas to residents as part of a fire safety promotion campaign. If Kawartha residents own a working smoke alarm the pizza will be free. Also rumoured to be in the works is a second proposal involving Kawartha Lakes' Sanitation Department providing dry cleaning services.
Most Expensive Cameo: In October 2002, Queen Elizabeth II and Wayne Gretzky ceremonially dropped the puck at a Vancouver Canucks game. According to information released under British Columbia's Access to Information law, here is how the bill broke down: $21,000 for catering; $11,000 to decorate the loading area; $1,000 for new wallpaper; $9,000 to rent a tent and red carpet; $13,000 for media services; and $7,800 for other costs, including ice cream for camera crews.
Worst Adaptation of Kramer vs. Kramer: An expensive and unnecessary trial in an Edmonton courtroom continues to cost Alberta taxpayers thousands of dollars. The Alberta government charged the City of Edmonton after PCB-laden drops fell from a light fixture in Commonwealth stadium in August of 2001. Alberta Justice claims that Edmonton did not report the spill immediately, and charged the City with violating provincial environmental laws. It has cost hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to pay for Edmonton's defence, plus more tax dollars to pay for prosecutors, judges, clerks, and other court costs. Taxpayers are rightly wondering if two levels of government fighting each other in court is a proper use of tax dollars. Nonetheless, the show goes on.
Worst Costume Design: The sequel to the taxpayer-funded artist who displayed dead rabbits as "art." Manitoba Arts Council put up $5,000 to fund Aliza Amihude's jewelry made with her toenails, pubic hair, mouse droppings and dead ladybugs. We are told one necklace sold for $360. No word yet if the "art" proceeds will be repaid to the Arts Council or dedicated to psychologist bills. (Memo to the Arts Council: Who were the unsuccessful applicants )
Special Distinction for Vote Buying: The Saskatchewan government launched a glitzy ad campaign in the fall of 2002 - conveniently during the run-up to a provincial election - aimed at stemming the province's steady population loss. New Democrat Premier Lorne Calvert told taxpayers the campaign would cost $2-million for the first of three years. One year later, the CTF revealed that $5.5-million had already been spent. The NDP was re-elected, but people are still leaving the province.
Most Expensive Cancelled Sequel Since Waterworld II: After last October's Ontario election, a bevy of Mike Harris appointees received the golden kiss-off, including Michael Gourley of the Ontario Financing Authority ($900,000) and William Farlinger of Ontario Power Generation ($152,000). And recently it came to light that $5.6-million in untendered Hydro One consulting contracts went to friends of the former government. Is it any wonder Ontario voters pulled the plug and opted for change in the recent provincial election
Provincial/Municipal Award Winner:
"And the provincial/municipal Teddy goes to the Manitoba Arts Council for awarding 5,000 tax dollars to a project no person of sane mind would classify as art," said Williamson as he presenting the second golden sow. "But happily for artists like Amihude, the Manitoba Arts Council has somewhat lower standards."
Lifetime Achievement Teddy - Adrienne Clarkson:
"A Lifetime Achievement Teddy is bestowed to Adrienne Clarkson for taking an office most Canadians respect and admire, and treating it with contempt," said Williamson. "At a time when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has begun to pay taxes it is unseemly that the Representative of the Sovereign in Canada shrugs off legitimate inquiries into her spending habits by announcing she is 'above politics.'"
Warning signs of Mme. Clarkson's prolific spending came early in her tenure. On a visit to British Columbia's capital in 1999, the Governor-General opted for the lavish Empress Hotel over Government House. The 102-room Government House has hosted members of the Royal Family, including the Queen who visited in 1994, yet it was not good enough for Mme. Clarkson.
Since 1995 the costs for operating the Governor-General's office have doubled from $10-million to $20-million. On top of the $20-million, Mme. Clarkson's office also receives an additional $15-million from other departments.
Included in these figures is $10-million from the National Capital Commission for "renovations." In 2001, the NCC spent $2.6-million including $29,242 for a new dining room carpet, $55,171 on repainting, $32,000 on furniture repair, $7,787 on drapes and $40,300 on fabrics. Then there were costs associated with the gardens at Rideau Hall, including $77,290 for "landscape consultants." Mme. Clarkson also spent $43,449 for a new rose garden, $9,318 for top soil, $63,000 for other shrubs, fruit trees and emerald cedars and $32,665 to install beech trees. Finally, Mme. Clarkson spent $1,299 on snowshoes and $378 for storage of her fur coats.
Of course, Mme. Clarkson will be best remembered for her three-week "Quest for the Modern North Tour" in the fall of 2003 to Russia, Finland and Iceland. The trip was taken despite the Governor-General having no foreign policy or foreign representative function as the Queen's representative in Canada. With husband John Ralston Saul, 22 staff members, and 59 luminaries like Bob Rae and Michael Ondaatje, the junket was expected to cost $1-million. The final tab was $5.3-million.
Thankfully, the federal government cancelled the second leg of her tour originally planned for later this year.