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Canada's Walk of Shame: It's your tax dollars at work

Alex Trebek - who is Canadian, you know - surely belongs in the Game Show Host Fall of Fame. If such a thing exists. Shania Twain definitely belongs in the Bare-Midriff Hall of Fame. Rich Little would go into the Rather Limited and Lame Comedian Hall of Fame.

All three are, in fact, inductees into Canada's Walk of Fame, the outfit that got a $500,000 grant from Heritage Canada the other day. Your tax dollars at work.

On the cusp of Canada Day, I put it to you that our taxes are collected and spent by a government that has contempt for us. They must think we are airheads, as they dole out our money to fund the celebration of the already rich and famous.

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Let's stick with Trebek, since we talk about TV here. The host of Jeopardy has won three Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show Host. He has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. He has been inducted into the California Broadcasting Association Hall of Fame. Right on. One reason for his place on Canada's Walk of Fame (CWOF), we are informed by the outfit's website, is he has "a reputation as a broadcaster who maintained his poise and composure in the most difficult settings." Right on, again. Game-show hosting must get mighty stressful. Like covering a war, or something.

The Daytime Emmys don't require taxpayer money to celebrate the likes of Alex Trebek. But, hereabouts, the government's money - our money - pours forth. We're funny that way.

According to itself, the CWOF "has distinguished itself as one of Canada's premier events; a glamorous and thrilling celebration of excellence in entertainment, sport, culture and innovation."

It is no such thing.

In a lame imitation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame - an invention of the chamber of commerce there in the 1950s when movies were losing out to this new television thing - the CWOF puts some celebrity names on a street in Toronto, has a party for the inductees and that party becomes a TV special. That's it. This year, there's also a Walk of Fame Festival in October that includes concerts by Burton Cummings and Chantal Kreviazuk. They need a boost, don't they?

There are so many things that are unspeakably ludicrous about our tax dollars going to Canada's Walk of Fame that it's hard to know where to begin. For a start, though, note that the grant announcement, made by the Minister of Finance himself, Jim Flaherty, came the day after a grant to the SummerWorks Theatre Festival (a mere $47,000 or so) was cancelled. That would be the festival that featured a play that Our Glorious Leader didn't see but decided he didn't like. The timing of Flaherty's gift was an screw-you to the arts and a thumbs-up, here's-the-money to a celebration of well-off celebrities and, mostly, very rich mediocrities.

How many of the Walk of Fame inductees actually live in Canada and pay taxes here? A few, maybe. Further, how many "fame" thingamajigs do we need? Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe are part of the Walk of Fame. Excuse me, but don't we have the great Hockey Hall of Fame to cater to hockey? We also have the National Hockey League Awards. Singers and songwriters are part of the Walk of Fame too. Excuse me again, but the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame exists and the induction of people into it is a significant part of the Juno Awards every year. There are a handful of writers in Canada's Walk of Fame. Whatever. We have the Governor-General's Awards. We have the Order of Canada.

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And if I've got this straight, a reason for Canada's Walk of Fame getting half a million bucks of taxpayer money is that it promotes tourism. Don't make me laugh. Is there a sane person in Canada who actually believes that masses of tourists will traipse a street in Toronto to gaze at the sidewalk and thrill at the sight of Daria Werbowy's name etched there? Who is Daria Werbowy? You might well ask, as the allegedly soon-to-arrive tourists will. A model, the face of Lancôme a few years ago. Yes, Daria Werbowy is an inductee. Your tax dollars at work.

To add insult to injury, one discovers who is in charge of Canada's Walk of Fame. The board of directors includes the presidents, chief executive officers, chairmen or managing directors of the following companies: RBC Insurance, ScotiaMcLeod, Barclay's Capital Canada, Cineplex Entertainment, Universal Studios Canada, Universal Music Canada and Shaw Media. Plus some law firms and securities companies. Excuse me, for the umpteenth time, but these people could rustle up a half million bucks in corporate sponsorship in about five minutes flat.

Instead, it's half a million bucks of taxpayer money that is not going to nourish the true artists of the future. It goes to this shindig, this consecration of a worse-than-motley crew of flibbertigibbets, the already famous and long since left for Hollywood. Canada's Walk of Shame. Your tax dollars at work. Bring on the TV special. We can watch our tax dollars at work in that.

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After the Weekend Viewing piece on Saturday, I leave you for a wee bit. Rest and recreation. The Copa America. The FIFA Women's World Cup. Say no more. Happy Canada Day.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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