At least two more key Conservatives received gold-embossed business cards, contrary to long-standing government rules against fancy stationery.
Tony Clement was given his gold cards shortly after being promoted to Treasury Board president in the May, 2011, cabinet shuffle, following the election of a Conservative majority.
And colleague Laurie Hawn, an Edmonton MP appointed temporarily to a cabinet committee looking at cost-cutting, got his own set of gold-embossed cards at the same time.
The Arms of Canada on both sets of cards was highlighted in gold foil. They joined John Baird, whose staff demanded the foreign affairs minister receive a set of forbidden English-only cards that also violated the rules in several other ways, including having a gold-coloured coat of arms.
Mr. Baird’s unilingual gold cards were first reported by The Canadian Press, which also obtained documents on business cards for Mr. Clement and Mr. Hawn, after a request under the Access to Information Act.
Spokespersons for Mr. Clement and Mr. Hawn say the gold cards were “ordered in error,” and say both men wrote personal cheques to reimburse taxpayers.
But neither spokesperson answered repeated requests about when the “error” was discovered, the dates of the personal cheques, and the amounts of the reimbursement, among other questions.
“The cards were ordered in error by a former staff member,” Clement spokeswoman Heather Domereckyj said in an e-mail.
“The minister was unaware of this decision. Once the additional costs were brought to the minister’s attention, he immediately wrote a personal cheque to cover the cost.”
Mr. Hawn’s special assistant, Jordan Fraser, said: “Mr. Hawn was not aware of the error. Once he became aware of the error, he reimbursed the cost.”
Mr. Clement’s department, the Treasury Board, sets out the rules for all ministers’ stationery, which specify that Canada’s coat of arms on business cards must be in black. The only colour permitted is the red of a small Canadian flag above the Canada wordmark.
The rules date from 1994, when the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien was starting to impose deficit-cutting austerity in the same way the current Conservative government is slashing jobs and programs to balance the books by 2015.
Mr. Baird has never acknowledged any “error” for his unilingual, gold-embossed cards, raising questions about a double-standard, since a fellow minister felt compelled to write a personal cheque to ensure government-wide rules were respected.
Mr. Baird has even joked about the issue in the House of Commons, and defends his unilingual cards by saying he also ordered a second set of bilingual cards that were always available.
Canada’s official-languages commissioner, Graham Fraser, issued a report in August slamming Mr. Baird for ignoring language policies, and demanding the English-only cards be dumped.