Canadian Taxpayers Federation presents 21st annual Teddy Awards for government waste

Author: Aaron Wudrick 2019/03/13
  • Federal – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s India trip
  • Provincial – B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz
  • Municipal – The City of Vancouver’s Parks Board for email-a-tree project
  • Lifetime Achievement – Ex-governor general Adrienne Clarkson 

OTTAWA, ON: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation today held its 21st annual Teddy Waste Awards ceremony, celebrating the best of the worst in government waste from the past year. CTF Federal Director Aaron Wudrick served as host along with the CTF’s pig mascot Porky the Waste Hater. The awards event took place on Parliament Hill in the West Block’s Press Conference Room.

The Teddy, a 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 fired in 1999 for submitting a panoply of dubious expense claims, including a $700 lunch for two.

“It was bad enough to watch the prime minister’s costume changes and dance moves during his trip to India, but seeing the bill was even worse and we’re giving him Teddy Waste Award for the debacle,” said Wudrick. “British Columbia won in the provincial category for legislative officials who spent taxpayers’ money on everything from watches to baseball games and B.C. also got the municipal award for Vancouver’s email-a-tree program.

“In an unprecedented example of enduring waste, former-governor general Adrienne Clarkson won a secondlifetime achievement award for billing taxpayers for $1.1 million in expenses after leaving office.”

Federal Teddy Winner: Prime Minister Trudeau’s India trip

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s eight-day visit to India in February, 2018, cost taxpayers at least $1.6 million, even though only a half day of official government-to-government business was scheduled. While on the trip, it emerged that a Canadian man convicted in a failed attempt to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986 was invited to attend one of the prime minister’s events in Mumbai, and the prime minister brought a Vancouver-based celebrity chef to India to prepare Indian cuisine at the Canadian High Commission, at a cost of $17,000 to taxpayers.

Provincial Teddy Winner: B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz

Speaker of the B.C. Legislature Darryl Plecas alleges that James and Lenz used taxpayers’ money to take frequent and frivolous trips to places such as the United Kingdom and Hong Kong and has also produced receipts to support allegations that James and Lenz milked taxpayers for items such as:

·       $3,200 for a wood splitter with a $10,000 trailer, ostensibly for the purpose of cutting fallen wooden beams at the legislature in the event of an earthquake (but stored at James’ house);

·       $700 for a watch purchased from the departure lounge at the Hong Kong airport (and worn by James’ at the press conference where he pronounced his innocence);

·       $1,000 for a whale watching excursion which was claimed as a tsunami awareness exercise, and;

·       $1,300 for tickets to a Seattle Mariners game, which was claimed as attendance at an information session on mass evacuations.

Municipal Teddy Winner: The City of Vancouver’s Parks Board

The City of Vancouver’s Park Board spent $50,000 inviting local residents to send emails to trees and paid artists to send replies on the trees’ behalf. The All the Trees project, which ran from August to December, 2018, saw 25 trees in the Jericho and West Point Grey areas outfitted with signs that included an ID number and an email address for people to send emails. The city then hired five artists, paying each $10,000, to reply on the trees’ behalf “within a week.”

Note: The CTF estimated the cost at $50,000 based on media reports. The city contacted us to clarify the cost as $7,000. While we're happy to pass on this clarification, spending $7,000 emails to trees remains a ridiculous waste of money and therefore Vancouver will retain its title as the municipal Teddy Waste Award winner.

Lifetime Achievement Teddy: Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson

Already the recipient of the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Teddy for her absurdly expensive trips while serving as the Queen’s representative in Canada, former governor general Adrienne Clarkson wins an unprecedented second lifetime achievement award for managing to continue soaking taxpayers more than fourteen years after leaving office.

In October, 2018, news broke that Clarkson had billed taxpayers more than $100,000 per year almost every year since leaving office in 2005, for a total of more than $1.1 million, under a policy that allows former governors general to continue to submit expenses even after they have left office. No details of the expenses claimed are available to the public.

Other nominees included:

Federal – Shared Services Canada for sending employees home (twice) and spending $18,000 fumigating an office after a (harmless) spider scare.

Federal – Global Affairs Canada for spending $127,000 on crystal glassware and $25,000 on 86 seat cushions, among other extravagant purchases.

Provincial – The Government of Ontario for giving Maple Leaf Foods $34.5 million in corporate welfare to help build a chicken plant while closing two other plants for a net loss of 300 jobs.

Provincial – Former Speaker of the Quebec National Assembly Jacques Chagnon for ordering off-menu lobster, expensive trips, and $1,000 meetings with wine.

Municipal – The Town of Vulcan, Alta., for spending $4,000 on Star Trek uniforms for city council.

Municipal – The Rural Municipality of Clayton, Sask., for spending $340,000 on a bridge that collapsed on the day it opened.

Click HERE for our backgrounder on all 2019 Teddy Award nominees and winners.