Blue and gold business cards for U.K. staff broke rules, Ottawa admits

Staff at Canada's mission in the UK have been issued off-colour new business cards. The Department of Foreign Affairs says the blue ink should never have been approved.

Opposition MP stunned by order for 'Conservative blue' business card

Sample of the new business cards issued to Canadian High Commission staff in the UK. (CBC News)

The government has admitted that new blue and gold business cards issued to staff at Canada's High Commission in London broke rules and should not have been authorized.

The business cards are entirely blue with the image of a gold maple leaf in the right-hand corner. On the reverse side staff information is also in blue ink.

Close-up of the Canada wordmark on the reverse of the new High Commission business cards. (CBC News)

All government of Canada business cards and stationery are governed by strict rules laid out by the Treasury Board.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says Canadian missions abroad are allowed to create their own country-specific business cards using official Government of Canada symbols.

But the new High Commission cards break Treasury Board guidelines for using an all-blue Canada wordmark, which has a small flag over the last "a" in the word. The Federal Identity Manual states the Canadian flag must be red and the typeface must be black.

I've never seen a blue maple leaf before- Paul Dewar, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic

"It's a bit surprising to see Conservative blue on the Canadian flag. I've never seen a blue maple leaf before," NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar said.

"I just wish the government had the same level of interest in supporting our diplomatic operations as it does in designing new business cards."

Foreign Affairs said the cards were a mistake, and won't be reprinted.

"The authorization of the originals in blue ink was an oversight. As soon as the oversight was brought to light, the High Commission asked that any replacement cards be ordered to meet Federal Identity Program design requirements," said spokesman Nicolas Doire.

This is not the first time the government has been left red-faced over colourful stationery.

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird ordered gold-embossed business cards when he took on the job in 2011. He was later forced to dump the English-only cards after being ordered to do so by the federal commissioner of official languages.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement was forced to write a personal cheque for his gold-embossed cards, which he said were ordered in error.

High Commission staff has recently relocated to the historic Canada House in Trafalgar Square. (Tamatisk/Wikimedia)

The off-colour U.K. business card was the brainchild of Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell, the former premier of British Columbia. Campbell is said to have been personally involved in the design of the cards

The business cards were issued in December, 2014, when staff relocated to the newly refurbished premises at Canada House in Trafalgar Square.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the design of the new business card was inspired by the gold maple leaves that were placed on the outside of the historic building when it was first opened by King George V in 1925. The symbol of a gold maple leaf has been used to promote Canada in the U.K. as part of the Canada House Presents series.

Former Canadian high commissioner to the U.K. Jeremy Kinsman called the cards "original."

"But what the hell," he said, "At least they are bilingual!"

The blue and gold branding of the new High Commission business cards will not be extended to other Canadian missions abroad.