The Yukon government has won an award it probably didn't want to win
The Teddys are presented by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for worst government spending
The Yukon won a national award. But it's far from prestigious.
The territory was honoured at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation 22nd annual Teddy Awards. The awards celebrate the best of the worst in government spending.
The national non-profit citizen's group has 215,000 supporters and is dedicated to lower taxes and accountable government.
The Yukon Department of Tourism received the top honour for putting gold in the gravel by a creek in The Klondike, as part of a tourism initiative with the Klondike Visitors Association called Gold Rush II.
"The idea that somebody in the Yukon government thought it was a good idea to spend six figures [on this]," said Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
"The funny part of this story was, originally, there was a crowdfunding campaign so the campaign was supposed to be paid for with private funds," he said. "But they couldn't raise anywhere near enough."
The crowdfunding campaign raised only $4,500, Wudrick said. So the Department of Tourism stepped in and gave the Klondike Visitors Association a grant of $139,000 to promote the tourism campaign.
Gold Rush II involved putting 3.5 ounces of gold in a creek and flying in social media influencers to pan for it, just like the first prospectors did in 1898.
The influencers we brought in ... we thought, were pretty good.- Paul Robitaille, Klondike Visitors Association
The Klondike Visitors Association sent invites to about 20 media outlets.
But in the end, just three social media influencers and one reporter from Vancouver arrived in Dawson.
One influencer's post generated 2,800 likes, fewer than her picture of a vegetarian dinner she had in Wisconsin, which generated 4,110 likes. Another social media influencer posted 17 pictures of the trip for her 3,500 Instagram followers. And the third posted a picture of himself riding a horse.
Wudrick says there's no evidence the reporter, from an outlet called "Vancouver is Awesome," ever ran a story.
The Yukon government grant covered the cost of the influencer's travel and the setup for the event on Aug. 20, 2019.
In all, 150 people showed up to that event, including Dawson community members and organizers.
"It's not always about the hits, but the quality of the hits, and whether they influence the right people," said Paul Robitaille, marketing and events manager with the Klondike Visitors Association.
"A lot of times you're taking chances on ideas and the whole concept here was definitely something that was outside the box," he said. "The influencers we brought in ... we thought, were pretty good."
Robitaille says he has no regrets, and the campaign was a win-win.
"There is a lot of good ... from publicity from something like this, I think," he said. "It was a success, as far as we are concerned."
He says Klondike Visitor Association plans a less expensive version of Gold Rush II this summer.