Tenth Anniversary of Teddy Awards Recognizing the Best of the Worst in Government Waste

The Canada 150 Rink at Parliament Hill was the federal winner for wasted tax dollars
The Canada 150 Rink at Parliament Hill was the federal winner for wasted tax dollars

Federal Teddy Winner: The Department of Canadian Heritage for the $8.2 million Canada 150 Parliament Hill rink

OTTAWA – POLITICS – The annual awards recognizing the best of the worst in government waste was celebrated by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation this past week. CTF Federal Director Aaron Wudrick says, “Every year, the competition is stiff, but we narrow it down to a handful of the most ridiculous stories. Sadly, we are never short on nominees, as governments seem to be very good at finding new ways to waste money.”

Wudrick served as host, joined by the CTF’s pig mascot Porky the Waster Hater and talented event hostess Jessica. The awards event took place on Parliament Hill in the Charles Lynch Press Theatre.

The Teddy, the pig-shaped award given annually by the CTF to government’s worst waste offenders, is named for Ted Weatherill, a former federal appointee who was fired in 1999 for submitting a panoply of dubious expense claims, including a $700 lunch for two.

As part of the celebrations commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday, the Department of Canadian Heritage built a temporary outdoor skating rink on Parliament Hill at a cost of $8.2 million – or approximately $100,000 per day and $53 per skater. Incredibly, it was built just one block away from the Rideau Canal, which is widely known as Canada’s most famous outdoor skating rink.

“Any temporary rink costing millions of dollars is a project that should have been put on ice from the get-go,” said Wudrick.

Provincial Teddy Winner: Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan

The Wynne government plan to reduce Ontarians’ hydro bills will end up costing ratepayers tens of billions of dollars. The plan, which involves Ontario Power Generation (OPG) borrowing money to keep hydro rates relatively flat until 2021, will then see rates increase by 6.8% every year until 2027 in order to pay back the borrowed money with interest. The province’s Auditor General concluded that the plan would ultimately end up costing taxpayers an additional $39 billion ($18 billion in borrowed funds, plus $21 billion in interest costs)

“Even for a government with a long track record of waste, this cynical act of kicking the can down the road is truly breathtaking,” noted Wudrick.

Municipal Teddy Winner: The City of Montreal’s Formula E 

The City of Montreal spent $34 million trying to attract the Formula-E race, F1’s electric-powered cousin, even creating a new downtown circuit and buying new safety fences and equipment. The 2017 event was a flop, selling only 25,000 out of 45,000 tickets and featuring mostly empty bleachers.

“By any measure, $34 million on a race nobody wants to watch is not a winning formula,” said Wudrick.

Lifetime Achievement Teddy: The City of Calgary’s Gaffe-Prone Public Art Program

The City of Calgary has a long track record of wasting taxpayer dollars on public artwork stretching back to the inception of its public art policy in 2004, and Calgary public art projects previously garnered a Municipal Teddy nominee in 2015 and a winner in 2016.

Some of the more notable examples of artistic waste include Bearing, a $221,000 large metal ball/archway located behind a fence at the Calgary Fire Department’s repair and maintenance facility; Wishing Well, a five metre tall interactive steel sphere which was supposed to translate text messages into unique lights and sounds (but didn’t) and on one occasion reflected the sun’s rays to burn a visitor’s jacket; Travelling Light (giant blue ring), a $470,000 giant blue ring with two lampposts on top of it; Forest Lawn Lift Station (aka the “poop palace”) a $246,000 wastewater station which embedded LED lights that change color; and Bowfort Towers, which features steel beams which are intended to look rusty but has been criticized as looking like “bombed out ruins.”

“Art can be a wonderful thing, but Calgary’s long track record of expensive artistic flops highlights the perils of mixing art and government,” noted Wudrick. “We’re pleased the city is currently reviewing the policy, but it needs to be dumped.”

Other nominees included:

  • Federal – Finance Canada for spending $192,000 on graphics and advertising for the federal budget.
  • Federal – Health Canada for spending $100,000 per year to operate the minister’s Twitter account.
  • Provincial – Danny Graham, CEO of Engage Nova Scotia for getting a $163,000 salary despite not being able to explain what Engage Nova Scotia does.
  • Provincial – SaskPower for previously maintaining a fish pond in its Regina headquarters at an annual cost of $20,000.
  • Municipal – The Toronto Transit Commission for its $1.9 million “word art” project that remains dormant due to fears passengers will use to type profane words.
  • Municipal – The United Firefighters of Winnipeg for taking a 40% taxpayer subsidy for their union president’s salary.
The Canada 150 Rink at Parliament Hill was the federal winner for wasted tax dollars
The Canada 150 Rink at Parliament Hill was the federal winner for wasted tax dollars

Federal – Heritage Canada for the $8.2 million Canada 150 Parliament Hill rink

  • Provincial – Ontario’s $39 billion Fair Hydro Plan  
  • Municipal – The City of Montreal for $34 million Formula E subsidy
  • Lifetime Achievement – The City of Calgary’s gaffe-prone public art program



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