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Giant rubber duck for Canada 150 a waste of taxpayer money: Ontario PCs

The giant rubber duck planned to tour around Ontario communities is based on an art piece by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, seen here floating in an enclosed branch of the Yongding river in Beijing, China, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.

Ng Han Guan/AP

An Ontario government grant of about $120,000 that is going toward a giant rubber duck for Canada 150 celebrations is ruffling some feathers.

The six-storey-tall, 13,600-kilogram yellow duck is being brought to Toronto by the Redpath Waterfront Festival, at a total cost of $200,000, combining other funding such as corporate sponsorship.

It's being billed as a tourist attraction — with particular Instagram and selfie appeal — and will also be taken to other communities in Ontario.

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Ontario's Progressive Conservatives say they're unclear on the giant duck's connection to Canada's heritage celebrations.

"It's an absurd waste of taxpayers' dollars," Rick Nicholls said in question period. "It is an absolute cluster duck."

An Ontario government grant of about $120,000 is going toward a rubber bird for Canada 150 celebrations. The duck stands six stories tall and weighs upwards of 13,000 kilograms.

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Eleanor McMahon said the province has been funding the waterfront festival for the past three years and it does a good job promoting tourism.

"This year they've decided to add a duck to the equation," she said. "I think it's an important contribution to our 150th celebrations. It's just another example of the fun that people are going to have this summer."

Lea Parrell, the co-producer of the waterfront festival, said it's hoped the duck will have a positive effect on tourism.

The $200,000 cost includes renting the duck from a man in the United States who owns it, transporting it, inflating it, using a crane to lift it onto a barge, towing the barge, bringing it to other Ontario communities, marketing, and on-site support such as portable toilets and extra fencing so people don't fall in the water, Parrell said.

The giant rubber duck is based on similar floating structures by a Dutch artist that have travelled world, Parrell said.

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A spokeswoman for the Department of Canadian Heritage said the Redpath Waterfront Festival received $250,000 from the Canada 150 Fund for its Ontario 150 Tour, which will visit six Ontario ports between July 1 and Aug. 13.

The tour also features a dance and musical performance, a lumberjack show and local live entertainment at each port.

"The festival received $92,500 in 2016-17 and $157,500 in 2017-18," Natalie Huneault said Monday in an email.

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