And the winner is . . .
Interesting things are missed when there is so much news happening around the world.
The Valentine’s Day school massacre in Florida, the prime minister’s Indian debacle, this winter’s weird weather (snow in Rome and San Diego!) have consumed newspage and newscast space recently.
Little noticed was the 20TH annual Teddy Awards, given out each February to our governments’ most wasteful spenders.
The Teddies are pig statues awarded by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). They are named for a guy who was fired as head of the Canada Labour Relations Board for dubious expense claims, including a $700 lunch for two. (Hey, the lunch was in Paris, which can be pricey!)
This year the federal category Teddy was awarded to the Department of Canadian Heritage, which built a Canada 150 outdoor skating rink on Parliament Hill at a cost of $8.2 million. That works out to $100,000 a day for the time the rink was open.
The rink was widely criticized because of its strict rules, including no food or drink on the ice, no cellphones, no hockey sticks or pucks, no figure skating, and no children in arms. An exception to the hockey prohibition was Hockey on the Hill, a peewee tournament for kids across Canada but that was cancelled and moved to an indoor arena because the weather was considered too cold.
Skaters were limited to 45 minutes skating time and required to book times online.
Just a hard slapshot away from the multi-million dollar rink is the Rideau Canal Skateway, Canada’s most renowned outdoor rink.
There were impressive runners up in the federal Teddy category: Health Canada for spending $100,000 a year for the minister’s Twitter account, and Finance Canada for blowing $192,000 to advertise the federal budget, which received hours of news media coverage.
Canada Revenue won the 2017 award for moving an employee from Richmond Hill to Belleville at a cost of $538,000. Of that amount $340,000 was for “price protection” on the employee’s $3.4 million house and $168,000 was for real estate fees.
Ontario’s Wynne government won this year’s provincial category Teddy for its vote-getting strategy to reduce our electricity bills. The province borrowed money to reduce electricity bills for a few years, but the provincial auditor-general has said the sleight of hand will cost taxpayers an additional $39 billion in the end.
Last year the Ontario government was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Teddy for its “long track record of mismanaging the province’s energy policy.” The provincial auditor general has reported that between 2006 and 2014 Ontario consumers have paid $37 billion above market price for energy because of the government’s mismanagement of energy policy.
This year’s provincial category runner up was the head of Engage Nova Scotia who earns $163,000 year despite, according to the CTF, not being able to explain what Engage Nova Scotia does. It is financially supported by the province’s Liberal government and the boss is a former Nova Scotia Liberal leader.
The annual Teddy awards are impressive because there is never a dearth of potential nominees in all levels of government across Canada.
“Sadly, we are never short on nominees, as governments seem to be very good at finding new ways to waste money,” said Aaron Wudrick, a CTF director.
Canada of course is not the only country where taxpayers money is washed down the sewers of bureaucratic stupidity. In Washington, D.C., Housing Secretary Ben Carson ordered a $31,000 custom hardwood dining set for his office. The order was placed about the same time Carson was circulating plans to slash his department’s programs for the homeless, elderly and the poor.
And, the U.S. National Parks Service paid $65,473 for a study to figure out what bugs do at night when a light is turned on.
Anyone in cottage country could have supplied the answer: when sitting outside on your deck never turn on a light or you’ll be bombarded by a million insects.
That 65 grand could have been better used to get the answers to more important questions like “How many bureaucrats does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
Oh well, it’s only taxpayer money.