Inside Politics

UPDATED - Foreign Affairs Minister pulls plug on sports ticket purchases

In response to an NDP-lodged Order Paper query on its sports-related spending habits, the government has revealed that, for the vast majority of departments, taxpayer dollars are not permitted to be used to take anyone out to the ole ball game. 

That is, unless you happen to be a visiting foreign national, a deserving civil servant or a football fan veteran. (Spoiler alert: It's a pretty safe bet absolutely no one will protest ticket-related expenses racked up for the benefit of the latter.) 

According to the report, which was tabled in the House yesterday, Foreign Affairs and International Trade ran up the highest tab by a long shot, spending a combined total of just over $60,000 on hockey and baseball tickets since 2005, including more than $20,000 during the 2007-08 fiscal cycle alone. 

The file states that the tickets were purchased "in support of official hospitality offered to foreign nations" and "foster positive working relations abroad through the promotion of Canadian businesses."

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says that the minister was entirely unaware that "hard working Canadian taxpayer dollars" were being spent on sports tickets - and once he found out what was going on, he was quick to blow the whistle: 

"The Minister did not approve this expenditure and it was a completely unacceptable use of tax payers dollars," he told this afternoon. 

"In this time of global economic uncertainty, we must take every effort to minimize costs which is why our government has reduced spending on hospitality by 33% over the previous government.  The Minister has since directed officials to immediately cease the practice of purchasing professional sporting tickets." 

Meanwhile, over at Treasury Board Secretariat, officials spent just over $1,000 on NHL tickets, which, the response notes, "were awarded to four employees under the provisions of the internal policy on awards and recognition." 

Judging from the numbers, that particular incentive initiative was introduced  in 2009, and mothballed in 2011, although it could simply be that no worthy recipients presented themselves during the last fiscal year.

Finally, Veterans Affairs reported paying out $610 on CFL tickets to pay the way for veterans taking part in "on-field commemorative ceremonies." (The expenses were spread over two years: $300 in 2007, and $310 in 2010.)  As noted above, it seems unlikely that even the most scandal-hungry opposition member would dare raise a ruckus over those expenditures.

No other departments, agencies or institutions reported spending so much as a dollar on sports tickets, although a fair number claimed that their budget system simply wasn't able to track expenses at that level. 

The full details for the above expenses (as extracted from the full Order Paper return, which you can download here: Q1059-tickets-full.pdf): 

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