Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe has been awarded the top prize by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which annually hands out gold pigs to government officials it says have spent the most public dollars on the least worthwhile things.
Dressed in a tux and accompanied by a pig-costumed mascot, CTF federal director Gregory Thomas pronounced Mr. Duceppe the 2012 lifetime achievement winner at the group’s annual Teddy Awards.
The award is going “to the recipient of a $2.9-million parliamentary pension, the gift of a grateful nation for a lifetime of devoted service towards breaking it up,” Mr. Thomas told a news conference Wednesday.
It is going, he said, to “a man who put his party’s historian on the taxpayers payroll to write a book – it’s out now, it’s in print, still no sign of our share of the royalties – the man who put his party’s executive director on the parliamentary payroll even though taxpayers subsidized his party, the Bloc Québécois, to the tune of $23.5-million.”
The awards, delivered with much fanfare and a healthy scoop of fun, are named after Ted Weatherill, a former federal government employee who was dismissed in 1999 for his outrageous expenses.
They celebrate “the worst of the worst in government greed and graft, fraud and flagrancy,” Mr. Thomas said. “We’ve ranked the offenders from the merely monstrous to the deeply depraved.”
The federal award went to Agriculture Canada for spending $284-million to help ease tobacco farmers out of the tobacco business.
The Auditor-General has said the $284-million program not only failed to reduce the number of tobacco farmers, it actually doubled their number from 118 to 251 a year later. “The big reason the program failed? More than half the 1,000 recipients of fat federal cheques were not actually active tobacco farmers,” Mr. Thomas explained.
Meagan Murdoch, a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, said the tobacco program, like many others, is under review.
“This program’s parameters include an audit to ensure that provincial tobacco licences have not been issued to participants," she said. "If the audit shows that any recipients violated any of these terms and conditions, they will be forced to repay the full amount with interest.”
The other federal nominees included the Department of National Defence for spending $2-billion since 1998 for four used submarines that are still not in service, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for spending $190,000 to subsidize donuts made with pure lard in the province with the highest obesity rate in Canada, and the National Capital Commission for spending $5.2-million for seven portable skate shacks on the Rideau Canal that sit unused 337 days a year.
The provincial award went to 21 Alberta MLAs who were paid $1,000 per month to serve on a committee that hasn’t held a meeting since 2008.
“Unsurprisingly, the Alberta Legislature’s standing committee on privileges, elections, standing orders and printing is the province’s largest legislative committee,” Mr. Thomas said. “It’s easy to get people to agree to sit on a committee that pays $1,000 a month – especially when that committee hasn’t met in 39 months.”
The other provincial nominees included Mr. Justice Vital Ouellette of Yukon Supreme Court for ordering the construction of a $15-million school for 41 French-speaking students in Whitehorse, BC Hydro for paying $42.3-million in performance bonuses to 99 per cent of its employees, and Ontario’s Ornge air-ambulance service for $25-million that is unaccounted for and now the subject of a police investigation.
The municipal award went to the City of Montreal for plowing sidewalks that were devoid of snow. “There’s not a lot I can add here,” Mr. Thomas said. “City snowplows driving on city sidewalks with their plow blades down pushing absolutely nothing. You really can’t make this stuff up.”
The other municipal nominees included Winnipeg for a $5,000 grant to notify citizens in winter if it is slippery outside, Calgary for spending $25-million “and counting” for the 15-month overdue pedestrian Peace Bridge that doubles as a public art display, and St. Albert, Alta., for spending $280,000 to buy a Starbucks outlet.