Opposition leader's office plants go undercover

When Public Works ended funding for the watering of plants in federal government buildings, departments were left to pick up the expense themselves or turn in their plants. Staff in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition took more radical action.

Departments have tough choices to make on office foliage, as Public Works watering funds dry up

Public Works is no longer paying to water plants in federal government buildings, leading some departments to get rid of their plants. Staff in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition took more radical action.

They have been huddled together in a windowless room for days now, crowded in the empty office on the third floor, where no one can spot them.

Others have been spirited away to people’s offices.

They are part of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition’s surreptitious attempts to keep federal foliage alive.

As a cost-saving measure, the Department of Public Works no longer pays for plants to be watered in government buildings. Instead, the “discretionary expense” has been downloaded directly to departments, which must make a decision on whether to take over this responsibility by April 2015.

And that includes the offices of the NDP Opposition.

The Opposition's plants had been happily residing in the office kitchen, one of the few areas with access to direct sunlight.

But employees were told the plants would no longer be watered and would be removed.

So the NDP took radical action: it snatched the plants and put them on lockdown.

Annual Defence watering budget: $300K

Over the past few months, Public Works has put hundreds of government office plants up for sale online.

Back in December, the Department of National Defence sent an internal memo to employees saying plants were not part of the “core mandate” of the department, and, given the cost of maintaining them — about $300,000 a year for that department alone — the plants would be removed or disposed of.

Public Works says departments were told they could keep the plants at their own expense, have Public Works get rid of them or have department employees take over maintenance.

But NDP sources say those options were not presented to them, so they are hiding the plants — at least for as long as they can keep them alive.


Rosemary Barton is CBC's Chief Political Correspondent, based in Ottawa.