Olympic debt, $40,000 flying banana among winners of tax-dollar waste awards

Vancouver's Olympic debt, a staff spa day in Manitoba, auto industry handouts and a flying banana were examples of government waste that earned Teddy awards handed out by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Vancouver's Olympic Village was "honoured" Wednesday at a tongue-in-cheek awards ceremony for wasting tax dollars, with other prizes going to the auto industry, an employee spa day in Manitoba and federal arts spending on a giant inflatable banana.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) showed off gold-coloured pig statues the lobby group would like to go to winners who the organization feels were guilty of government waste last year as it announced four prizes for its 11th annual Teddies Waste Awards.

Taking the municipal Teddy, with the most expensive winning example of waste, was Vancouver City Council for its handling of the Olympic Village project.

"The municipal Teddy goes to the City of Vancouver for waste of Olympic proportions," said Kevin Gaudet, CTF national director.

"The city allowed a firm to build the Olympic athletes' village on city land. The city was to earn $193 million on the deal, but the firm couldn't get the job done and the city now is on the hook for $875 million in debt," he said.

Art as waste – literally

The federal Teddy went to the Canada Council for the Arts for "Best Achievement in Special Effects with Taxpayer Dollars." The federally funded agency spent $15,000 last year to help bring a Belgian art exhibit to Quebec that produces a poop-like substance when fed with food.

The council also spent $40,000 on a project that seeks to fly a giant inflatable banana over Texas.

The provincial award went to the Manitoba Child and Family Services agency, which ran a spa day for staff that included pedicures, makeup lessons and tarot card readings.

The nominees included:

  • Federal – Lori Ridgeway, Fisheries and Oceans civil servant for $400,000 in travel expenses.
  • Federal – CBC executives for first-class travel expenses.
  • Federal – Parks Canada for a $1.8-million solar-powered washroom facility.
  • Saskatchewan government – for switching college space into office space then back to college space.
  • New Brunswick government – for its government-owned and subsidized lodge on the Restigouche River.
  • Alberta government – for the pay hike given to MLAs.
  • City of Edmonton – for producing carbon footprint calculators despite the plethora of free ones online.
  • City of Winnipeg – for its failing boat tour service.
  • City of Toronto – for its $935,000 rainwater toilet.
  • City of Oshawa – for buying a dollhouse village for $234,000 then trying and failing to sell it.

The Big Three auto companies were winners of a lifetime achievement award for their continuing reliance on government grants and loans.

The federation's annual spoof awards are named after Ted Weatherill, a former senior public servant who was fired for lavish expense spending a decade ago.