Feds drop half-a-million on glitzy galas for bureaucrats

Author: Ryan Thorpe 2024/01/08

Cameras flashing as honoured guests strut down a red carpet. Catered menus featuring charcuterie, cured arctic char, and duck prosciutto. Speechwriters and lavish venue rentals. Trophies made of “antique gold,” “clear crystal” and “bevelled black glass.” 

It’s not the Oscars, not the Golden Globes, not even the Junos…

It’s the Public Service Award of Excellence. 

The federal government spent nearly half-a-million dollars throwing gaudy galas to bestow bureaucrats with expensive awards over the past decade. Meanwhile, federal departments consistently failed to hit even half of their performance targets. 

And yet, taxpayers got stuck with the party bill for $476,000 from 2012 to 2022. 

“It’s time to end Ottawa’s party with taxpayers’ cash,” said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “The appropriate trophies would be big golden pigs.”

The event was launched in 2005 with 14 “award categories” to recognize government employees who “demonstrated excellence in achieving results for Canadians.” 

Less than half of the feds’ departmental performance targets are “consistently met” each year, according to a 2023 report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the government’s independent financial watchdog. 

Combined spending on the galas in the past two years alone came to $118,000, with about $80,000 going towards the custom-designed trophies. 

In 2022, the feds dropped $37,243 on the party, with the trophies for winners described as a “plaque in bevelled black glass,” featuring “clear crystal overlay with silver standoffs” and a “personalized inscription deep-etched and silver-filled.” 

The feds also expensed “mileage and parking for 165 local employees,” who presumably had to drive into downtown Ottawa for the party.

In 2021, the party was held virtually over three days, with the feds spending $20,000 on the development of an online “platform” and the full event production. A speechwriter was hired for $2,000 and the trophies cost $15,000. 

The trophies that year were described as “stone art with blown glass mounted on an optical crystal base,” “COVID heroes coins” and a “black hexagon tower cast in stone.” 

“It’s nice that bureaucrats are able to find time to blow tens-of-thousands of dollars on award shows for themselves while the Canadians who pay their salaries can’t afford ground beef,” Terrazzano said. “Canadians staring down their growing bills have every right to be furious about the government’s glitzy galas.”

In 2019, the feds dropped $23,000 on the gala, which included a literal red carpet and a proposed menu featuring charcuterie, cured arctic char, smoked and candied salmon, smoked trout, pork terrine and duck prosciutto. 

The records obtained by the CTF don’t include menu options for other years. 

A photographer was also hired in 2019 so bureaucrats could experience a flashy photoshoot. The trophies were “custom imported medallions” with “antique gold recessed finish,” presented in a “black velvet box” with “engraving on the back.” 

Spending on trophies for winners totals $242,909 since 2012. 

The highest spending on record for the award gala came in 2012, when the government dropped more than $195,000 in taxpayer cash on the event. 

A government spokesperson told the CTF that from 2005 to 2011, the cost of the parties was “in line” with 2012. But in 2013, the government stopped hosting the parties at a rented ballroom, instead moving the festivities to Rideau Hall, to lower costs. 

“Nothing screams fiscal responsibility like spending thousands every year awarding bureaucrats that can’t meet their own performance targets,” Terrazzano said. “The government is more than $1 trillion in debt, so Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must do the right thing and end these expensive bureaucrat award shows.”

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Franco Terrazzano
Federal Director at
Canadian Taxpayers

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