Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Canada - Where News Isn't News!

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Muslim charity squandered money for poor
Jesse McLean, Staff Reporter
Published On Thu Jan 20 2011
Mohammad Ashraf, (left) long-time leader of the Islamic Society of North America Canada, is at the centre of a controversy involving mismanaged charity donations and free perks for family members.
Devout Muslims donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of Canada’s largest Islamic organizations on the promise that the cash would be used to help the poor.
But only one in four dollars donated to a special pool of money at the Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA Canada) actually reached the needy.
Mismanagement of more than $600,000 is among the findings in a scathing audit obtained by the Star.
A “very small portion . . . is distributed to the poor and needy and the major portion is spent on the administration of the centre,” concluded the 2010 audit of the previous four years.
ISNA Canada is embroiled in controversy, with the audit revealing the practice of giving free perks to family members of a top official; the improper issuing of charitable tax receipts; and the diversion of charity money to private businesses. At the centre of it all is long-time secretary general Mohammad Ashraf, who has recently announced he is stepping down.
Ashraf would not answer a series of questions from the Star.
“Don’t ask me anything,” Ashraf told a reporter who visited the organization’s Mississauga headquarters, marked by a graceful minaret overlooking the Queen Elizabeth Way. The 73-year-old microbiologist said he is “being transitioned into retirement” and that he is “restricted” from commenting on the audit.
ISNA Canada’s elected president, Mohamed Bekkari, told the Star in an interview Wednesday that his organization will toughen financial protocols as a result of the audit. All financial authority has been removed from Ashraf, he said. Bekkari called the findings of the audit, by chartered accountant Fareed Sheik, “unsettling” and a new audit will be ordered that will dig deeper.
The first audit warns that ISNA would risk losing charity status if things are not done differently.
For more than 30 years, Ashraf has been the leader of ISNA, a national organization that is also the hub for Mississauga’s Muslim community. It houses the city’s most visible mosque and provides a variety of services, including a Muslim high school and a halal meat certification agency.
ISNA Canada draws in close to $1 million in charity donations a year. The audit looked closely at one portion of those donations, an obligatory alms giving called Zakat and Fitrah meant to aid the needy. The audit found that of about $810,777 collected over four years, only $196,460 went to aid the poor.
After prayer, Zakat is considered by some Muslims to be the most important pillar of the Islamic faith. It requires Muslims to give a minimum of 2.5 per cent of their wealth each year to the poor.
To mark the beginning of Ramadan, Ashraf sent out a letter in August 2010 urging all of ISNA Canada’s members to donate money for “helping needy Muslims not only in Canada, but all over the World.”
The auditor, brought in by the ISNA Canada board, took issue with how charity cash was used to cover everything from beefing up security — including $60,000 for installing cameras and frequently changing locks — to health benefits for Ashraf’s daughters, even though they don't work for ISNA Canada.
The organization has been spending more than $6,500 each year on the health plans for Ashraf’s daughters, Saadia and Uzma. Saadia’s premium has since been returned, the audit said.
“Spending for personal expenses out of the charity’s funds is unethical,” the auditor wrote, saying it is “tantamount to misappropriation of funds.”
The audit shows tens of thousands of charity dollars were shuffled from ISNA Canada to its affiliated services and businesses, several of which have secretary-general Ashraf as a director. Federal rules forbid charities from spending donations on business activities that do not aid the charity.
The organization has “put an end” to the inappropriate transferring of money as well as taken “financial matters out of the hands” of Ashraf, Bekkari said.
Ashraf has defended himself in a memo posted on the organization’s website. In it, Ashraf told the members

that the audit showed there had been “No instances of fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds or any deliberate wrong doings in handling of the financial affairs of ISNA Canada.”
The auditor noted his scope was limited and “consequently I was not able to follow the trail of funds transferred from ISNA to other organizations.”
“Hence I cannot conclude with certainty that there has been no misappropriation or embezzlement of funds or cash.”
The audit’s scope was in part restricted because the organization’s management refused to give the auditor certain documents, the board’s president said.
ISNA Canada’s board of directors is in the midst of hiring a firm to a conduct a more thorough audit.
“(The audit) raised concerned for us, it opened our eyes,” Bekkari said. “As a board, we need much higher level of certainty to answer your questions.”
The auditor also uncovered multiple cases where Ashraf or the organization inappropriately gave and received charity tax receipts, repeatedly violating federal charity rules.
In a review of the financial statements for the halal meat certification agency, a business branch of the Society that certifies meat as permissable to eat under Islamic rules, the auditor discovered Ashraf had received a $15,000 tax receipt after moving money from the agency’s business account over to ISNA Canada and claiming it was a “personal donation.”
Former board members told the Star Ashraf diverted profits from the certification agency to a secret account from which he paid himself and at least two family members. They say the board had no knowledge of this.
The business’ revenue from the halal certification business is “supposed to come to the parent organization” as the donations do, said Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, former president of ISNA Canada.
“(Ashraf) was directing it to an account he had opened and not telling us,” he said.
The agency’s funds were also used from 2005 to 2009 to pay Ashraf’s wife and one of his daughters nearly $150,000 for a handful of services, from consulting and promotions to putting together a newsletter that comes out four times a year, according to financial statements.
There were also three cases where people received charity tax receipts from ISNA Canada for repaying scholarship loans.
The organization’s management told the auditor the borrowers “insisted that they will return the loan only if the tax receipt is issued.” (Federal charity receipts are only to be issued for true charitable donations).
The Society also issued charity receipts — more than $42,000 in 2009 — to those who purchased funeral services through the organization.
“Tax receipts have to be issued for only donations to the charity and not for any other purposes,” the auditor said in his report.
The organization had a world-renowned Islamic scholar on its payroll, despite her not actually working for ISNA, in a bid to help her immigrate to Canada, the audit revealed.
Farhat Hashmi had been invited to come from Pakistan to deliver lectures several times throughout the mid-2000s.
“This is a serious violation of the (Canadian Revenue Agency) rules and immigration rules to hire someone just in the books to help get through immigration,” the auditor’s report said.
Bekkari, the organization’s president, said he didn’t know any specifics about the scholar or how much she was paid.
“I have bigger issues than that,” he said.
ISNA Canada is governed by a board consisting of 15 members including Ashraf.
Ashraf was contacted multiple times, but repeatedly refused to comment. Attempts to speak with his wife and his daughters were unsuccessful.
Ashraf’s reign at ISNA Canada will come to an end March 31. The online posting announcing Ashraf’s retirement applauded his work for having “been instrumental in the evolution of ISNA Canada” as well as in the development of the organization’s stately mosque in Mississauga.
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Canada well-positioned to take advantage of the new economic order
By Gwyn Morgan, Columnist, Troy Media
Friday, August 20, 2010
What a difference a decade makes. Who would have predicted 10 years ago that the main thing shielding the once invincible American greenback from apocalyptic collapse of confidence would be China’s weekly purchases of U.S. Treasury bills? Or that a Chinese credit rating agency’s downgrade of the debt of the U.S., U.K. and France to below that of China would seriously shake international markets? And who would have thought that a newly-elected British Prime Minister would make India his top priority for a foreign visit?
After centuries of European and American dominance, a new world order is upon us. Stephen Green, chairman of London-based global banking giant HSBC, describes this as a global trade triangle with Asian “workshop” countries forming one side, Western consuming nations a second, and international resource producers the third.
Unsustainable global imbalances
Trade moves around the triangle with consumers in the West buying goods manufactured in Asia, using raw materials and fuel from resource producers. While the foreign exchange reserves of Asian workshop countries and resource producers have flourished under this arrangement, the West has paid for its shopping spree and energy dependency by going deeper and deeper in debt. In 2008, the United States, together with Spain, Britain, France, Italy, Australia, Greece and Portugal, registered a total current account deficit of $1.3- trillion (U.S.). Meanwhile, China and the oil exporting countries registered a combined current account surplus of $1.2-trillion. No wonder economists were wringing their hands over what they term “unsustainable global imbalances.”
Then things got even worse for the West. The financial crisis triggered unprecedented deficit spending, adding borrowing to finance huge domestic fiscal imbalances to already enormous international trade imbalances. There is virtually no prospect of reversing this picture. The U.S. cannot spend its way to financial solvency and, having only one side of the global economic triangle, must continue to import a large portion of its resource needs. Debt-loaded, demographically shrinking European countries face immediate slashing of social programs and a long-term secular decline in living standards. The West has passed its zenith.
Now the good news. Canada is positioned to be an exception to this bleak picture. We have the smallest national debt of any G8 country. Our economy weathered the recession better than others and is currently leading job growth. But most importantly, Canada possesses two sides of the global economic triangle. We are a consumer of goods from workshop countries and we are also a supplier of resources to them. That’s the primary reason Canada is the only G8 country to consistently achieve current account surpluses.
In 2009, our resource industries supplied over half of Canada’s export revenue, with oil and gas making up the lion’s share, followed by forest products, mined metals, coal, fertilizer and electricity. In addition to driving our international trade surplus and contributing to federal and provincial tax coffers, resource sector employment is a mainstay across the country.
We have the natural gas, metals mining and forest products sectors in B.C., the enormously important oil sands in Alberta, and potash and uranium mining in Saskatchewan. Western Canada is also a major exporter of metallurgical coal for China’s steel mills. Ontario has a huge metals mining sector, while Atlantic Canada has growing offshore oil and gas production. Canada is the world’s largest producer of hydroelectric power and a major exporter of electricity to the U.S., with Quebec leading the way. British Columbia, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador have huge hydro power developments, and much more potential.
In China and India, which have more than a third of global population, we are witnessing the largest improvement in living standards in the history of the world. But their continued progress will require vast amounts of the very resources that Canada possesses. Emergence of the Asian-led new world economic order gives our country an opportunity to diversify away from our dangerous dependency on a weakening United States. Realizing this historic opportunity means we must embrace and build upon the strengths of our natural resources and the capabilities of the Canadians who develop them.
Canada’s game to lose
This is our game to lose, but winning will require changes in both attitudes and processes. National vilification of world-class resources such as the oil sands over the accidental deaths of fewer ducks than die every minute of hunting season, urbane-elitists stuck in the old paradigm that denigrates resource developers as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” noisy non- governmental organizations that believe Canadians can thrive by changing the countryside into one vast national park and regulatory processes that turn development of new metal mines or hydro dams into a decade-long nightmare will need to give way to responsible and constructive engagement.
It’s not just funding of seriously stressed social programs that’s at stake, but the creation of opportunities for our young graduates to build fulfilling careers and lead us forward as a nation prospering in the new world economic order.
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Gun Registry Worse than Useless
Breached by unknown hackers over 300 times, Grossly incomplete and severely flawed error-riddled registry
By Don Klein
Friday, March 19, 2010
The figure being bandied about in the media is that police are now up to 11,000 “uses” of the registry per DAY, (not year.) This is a phony, contrived figure by creating a computer generated “hit” for every conceivable clerical use of police computers, from traffic tickets to minor misdemeanor records, even jaywalking or someone calling police about a noisy party next door, which automatically generates an address check through the porous CFC database. As well, every legal sale of a firearm either by a retailer or person to person, generates up to five or more hits on the registry.
Police have admitted it has been breached by unknown hackers over 300 times. CPIC (Canadian Police Information Center) has been admittedly breached some 1,400 times up to 1995. How many times has it been accessed by the tens of thousands who have unrestricted access to it? Are they all honest? If you google “police officer charged”, you will get over eight million responses! Does this make you feel more secure? Thefts of gun collections, and responsibly owned firearms, previously very privately held, have increased exponentially since the registry came into being. Law abiding people were forced under threat of jail to have them and their most private information, filed in the “shopping list for criminals.”
Few hits are actual “firearms” inquiries especially since front line police would be very unwise to even think of relying on it.
We were recently target shooting with some very senior police officers and their young sons. They tell us they do not rely on the registry. Ever. All front line police know that to rely on the grossly incomplete and severely flawed error-riddled registry would be suicidal. Worse than that, REAL criminals are REMOVED from the registry when convicted, so the very ones that do pose a real danger to anyone, especially police, are PROTECTED by the C-68 “Home Invasions Made Safer” law. EVERY call must be treated as “possibly or likely weapons present.” That means ANY weapons, not just guns. A query with a response of “no guns present” would give police a false sense of security. Does anyone really believe that criminals line up to register their smuggled, knock off, or stolen guns? (See “What Police have said about the Registry” on Garry Breitkreuz’s site or this link directly to the large number of real police comments http://www.garrybreitkreuz.com/publications/policequotes.htm) The police chiefs are badly undermining their credibility by supporting the useless and dangerous registry.
All of our continued efforts though, appear to be moot. The Conservatives seem to have no desire to improve the horrible mess they are now contributing to, by undermining Garry Breitkreuz and not pointing out the blatant falsehoods being disseminated by their own and opposition members. Breitkreuz’s proposed C-301 was sensible, in no way compromised any perceived “public safety,” but still did not remove the criminal stigmatization of normal, law abiding, traditional firearms owners by retaining the C-68 licensing system which is the real danger to honest people. In his 2002 election campaign, Stephen Harper had this to say: Stephen Harper on Bill C-68 January 2002: “There has been some confusion as to my position on gun control. I would like to make it clear that I would repeal the Liberal’s gun registry. I personally have always opposed Bill C-68 and the Liberal approach to gun control. - 60 per cent of respondents in my riding opposed the Bill. I therefore voted against Bill C-68 in the final vote in the House of Commons.
“I was and still am in total agreement with the statement made in the House of Commons by former Reform Leader Preston Manning on June, 13, 1995: “Bill C-68, if passed into law, will not be a good law. It will be a bad law, a blight on the legislative record of the government, a law that fails the three great tests of constitutionality, of effectiveness and of democratic consent of the governed. What should be the fate of a bad law? It should be repealed…” C-68 has proven to be a bad law and has created a bureaucratic nightmare for both gun owners and the government.
“As Leader of the Official Opposition I will use all the powers afforded to me as Leader and continue our party’s fight to repeal Bill C-68 and replace it with a firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.”
We intend to hold him to his promise now that we have made him Prime Minister. After all, C-68 has made “paper criminals” of the majority of his supporters, those being the honest and law abiding firearms owners who participate in all the shooting sports, including hunting and collecting activities. We are not, and never have been a problem. The fact that we can obtain liability insurance for all firearms activities in the amount of FIVE MILLION DOLLARS for less than $10.00 PER YEAR shows that we are the safest activity in Canada. Actuarially, we do not even “register” and insurance companies make money because there are so very few incidents in spite of the millions who own and use firearms responsibly and always have.
The Conservatives themselves killed this C-301 sensible amendment to the draconian Liberal “Firearms Act.” It was a blatant betrayal of 13 years of important and dedicated work by Breitkreuz and his staff.
By severely dividing their own caucus, and allowing the Bloc and NDP to effectively dictate terms in the House as well as the MSM, the PMO appears now to be anti lawful firearms owners - his party’s largest bloc of voters. They have now publicly implied (“We think licensing serves a valid social policy purpose,” said Vic Toews - “Personal firearm permit to stand” By PAUL TURENNE, Winnipeg Sun) that they support C-68 licensing. The now defunct PMO’s proposed Senate Bill S-5, would have actually created a far more dangerous, demeaning, and cumbersome system, which by massively adding bureaucracy and oppression to the C-68 mess, would have undoubtedly exponentially increased administration costs and be a worse burden on traditional firearms owners by a factor of five to ten times, as well as a huge continuing drain on all taxpayers with absolutely no useful return.
Sadly, the FAC system prior to C-68 that was in place and administered by the local RCMP and City Police forces, was far more effective in screening lawful firearms owners since these forces had local knowledge of the people applying for the FAC. Therefore we were already licensed when C-68 was implemented. But we were not made into instant “paper criminals” which was the only thing accomplished by the over two billion dollars and climbing, that was wasted on the C-68 system. It does absolutely nothing to prevent criminal use of guns as Toronto and other cities have so convincingly demonstrated. It is not the people - farmers, collectors, sportsmen and women, and other traditional firearms owners attacked by C-68, who are committing crimes. The current C-68 gun laws have made the streets and homes more dangerous, by protecting the privacy and rights of REAL criminals who of course, by law, are NOT in the registry.
The very people who are the only ones targeted by the gun registry are by definition, law abiding. Since criminals are by law automatically not required to be in the registry and need not report address changes or activities, the only people protected are those very criminals who do not line up to register their stolen, smuggled, or knock off firearms.
As contributing members and life long supporters of honest Conservative principles, and having worked hard to help them succeed in electing members through emails, monetary contributions, campaigning and other means, we feel badly let down. The promise was “to repeal C-68” because it is “bad law.” It was and is. They seem to have abandoned that logical promise. I sincerely hope we are wrong. But we must be shown to be wrong. Meanwhile, we are anxiously waiting.
Passage of Candace Hoepner’s private members Bill C-391 will be a small step in the right direction, but is only a small part of the real battle to eliminate the dangerous and oppressive C-68 Firearms Act.
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Making Toronto a better city
Get rid of the left wing politicians, reduce red tape, reduce gridlock, lower spending and taxes and allow businesses and people to prosper
By Arthur Weinreb
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/20860
The liberal Toronto Star began an in depth feature about how to make Toronto and the GTA a better place to live. Even the Star that supports the socialists on Toronto City Council acknowledges that the city is not as good as it can be. The reasons are obvious at least to others; we’ve turned into a full blown nanny state where people who are not members of the elites’ special interest groups are ignored. We are a police state if you count the idling police, the puppy police, the plastic bag police, etc. We are blessed with a council that simply cannot stop taxing and spending as they strive to take care of all the residents who they deem incapable of looking after themselves.
The latest example of the silliness that is government in Toronto was Councillor Joe Mihevc’s argument that Toronto should not sell two ski hills that the city owns in order to raise some much needed cash. According to Mihevc, if the hills are acquired by private concerns, those companies will increase fees. So to Mihevc and his ilk, residents of Toronto have a right to affordable skiing. It’s no wonder that the city is deteriorating as taxes go sky high.
One of the problems facing Toronto is gridlock due to the war on cars that the city mothers are fighting. Traffic congestion is not only ignored but is made worse by the continuous construction of bicycle lanes on major arteries. Common sense dictates that if the congestion was eased, it would make it much easier for bicycles and public transit to move. But there’s no room for common sense.
The major problems are overspending, taxes that are too high and over regulation but don’t look to the Toronto Star to come up with any solutions to the city’s problems other than more of the same.
A column by Joe Fiorito last Sunday provides a perfect illustration of how those on the left deal with such problems. Fiorito wants a mandatory law that businesses over a certain size must hire new immigrants for a one year internship in order to gain Canadian experience and eliminate racism. Who’s going to pay for all this? No problem, all three levels of government (ie the taxpayers) will pay.
So in this economy where no one is guaranteed a job, recent immigrants will be. And contrary to what those on the left think, evil white men will not be the only ones who will resent this legislation; less recent immigrants wouldn’t like it either. Fiorito might as well be honest, go all the way and just argue for a full socialist society where everyone has a job even if it means standing around eight hours a day doing nothing.
The columnist also wants mandatory language training at lunchtime for new immigrants. Again, the cost of that is no problem; the government will pay.
Fiorito also thinks that businesses that are disrupted by long periods of construction (usually occasioned by public transit work) should get tax breaks or credits. Again, any problem can be solved by throwing more money at it. How about letting experts in transit or planning or construction run these projects rather than know-nothing councillors at city hall?
As far as regulation goes, Fiorito of course wants more of it. In his opinion, landlords should be licensed in order to go after crack houses. Well, houses don’t smoke crack; people smoke crack. And if we did away with the puppy police and the kitty kops who are paid to look in peoples’ homes to root out unlicensed pets, and a lot of the overpaid, underworked and sleep-on-the-job union workers, we could afford more real cops to go after those who hang out in crack houses.
Fiorito’s dumbest idea to make Toronto a better city is to legalize marijuana. To begin with, marijuana laws are criminal in nature and within the jurisdiction of the federal government, not the city. While there are cogent arguments for the legalization of marijuana, simply making it legal in Toronto or the GTA would make the city a haven for every druggie who just wants to sit around and smoke up. The city would become worse than the east side of Vancouver. On second thought, perhaps the idea of Fiorito’s job being taken over by a columnist who just arrived in Canada yesterday isn’t such a bad idea.
Notwithstanding the jurisdictional problem of making Toronto the pot capital of the world, the government could still make smoking dope legal in Toronto and nowhere else. Even though the Conservatives have a minority, all they need is the support of one other party and Jack and the NDP would never say no to drugs. This type of legislation would go a long way in showing that Stephen Harper indeed has a sense of humour. And if this is too much for the Tories they could always pass a law making marijuana legal at Joe’s house.
Fiorito’s solutions are more of the same; spend more money, make more regulations and although he doesn’t say it, raise taxes to pay for these new government handouts.
What we really need in order to make Toronto and the GTA better is to get rid of the left wing politicians, reduce red tape, reduce gridlock, lower spending and taxes and allow businesses and people to prosper which in turn will result in higher tax revenues and more jobs.
That would really make Toronto a better place to live.
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12th Annual “Teddies” Government Waste Awards
MP junk mail, outrageous Nova Scotia MLA expenses, the City of Toronto's homeless audit and gold-plated MP pension plans are this year's winners
By Kevin Gaudet
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
OTTAWA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) held its 12th annual “Teddy Waste Awards” ceremony to recognize the best of the worst government waste. CTF Prairie director, Colin Craig, acted as the master of ceremonies today at the black tie news conference on Parliament Hill. “Porky the Waste Hater” (pig mascot) and guest hostess Natasha assisted with the ceremony.
The “Teddies” award ceremony is named after Ted Weatherill, a former federal bureaucrat who was fired for outrageous expenses in 1999. Each year the CTF holds the ceremony to recognize a government, public office holder, civil servant, department or agency that most exemplifies government waste.
“We hold the ceremony each year to hold enlighten the public about government waste and highlight fat that needs to be trimmed,” said Craig. “The event also helps hold bureaucrats and politicians accountable for their decisions.”
The 2010 Teddy winners are:
Federal Award Winner: MP Junk Mail
“And the federal Teddy goes to…Members of Parliament for their junk mailer program. The federal mail-out program allows MPs to send flyers to no more than 10 per cent of the households any riding in the country. The flyers are in addition to riding-wide MP flyers and have increased in cost from $5.9 million in 2005-06 to $10 million in 2008-09. Oddly enough, as our deficit skyrocketed, MPs hiked up their usage of these flyers to tell us about everything but the deficit.” said Craig.
Provincial Award Winner: Outrageous Nova Scotia MLA Expenses
“And the provincial Teddy award goes to…Nova Scotia’s MLAs for their outrageous MLA expense claims. A scathing audit on MLA expenses between 2006-2009 revealed the maritime MLAs had expensed just about everything under the sun. The all-star from the scandal was Len “The Master of Multitasking” Goucher for expensing 11 computers, 12 printers, 5 digital cameras, 4 video cameras and the Xbox game Dance Dance Revolution over a three-year period.” commented Craig.
Municipal Award Winner: City of Toronto’s Homeless Audit
“And the municipal Teddy goes to…the City of Toronto for paying people to pretend to be homeless. The city conducts a ‘homeless audit’ each year and to assist in the audit they decided to pay people $100 to dress up and act homeless in the streets of Toronto. Designed to help the city get count its homeless people, it was actually a slap in the face to real homeless people as they were banned from applying for the work,” said Craig.
Lifetime Achievement Teddy: Gold-plated MP Pensions
After the suspense built for everyone’s favourite category, Craig announced the final award, “And the Lifetime Achievement Teddy goes to…the gold-plated MP pension plan. For years Canadians have heard about quite possibly the richest pension plan in the country – the one Members of Parliament decided to award themselves. Unlike most pension plans, MPs are eligible for a minimum pension of $46,000 after just ten years of service and it skyrockets from there. Every candidate seems to hate it until it’s offered to them,” said Craig. “When will it end?”
2010 Teddy Waste Award Nominee Background Information
Federal Nominees
Unused Hotel Rooms - Diplomats in Wonderland
Nominated for: “Best set that was never used”
Production Cost: $1.5 million
Canadian organizers for the 2008 Francophonie Summit in Quebec City dazzled their guests with plenty of space to kick-back between confab sessions, spending $1.5 million on empty hotel rooms. With 5,525 surplus rooms over the conference’s duration at an average cost of $271 per night, the government had enough space to host the entire National Assembly and Senate of France with more than 2,000 rooms to spare for their supporting cast. While the record number of ‘extras’ makes this government expenditure a sure nominee, taxpayers peaking through the keyhole may find themselves swept away by a flood of their own tears in a land where this kind of waste is acceptable.
Silver Buyback - Elizabeth, the Silver Age
Nominated for: “Best effects on the silver smokescreen”
Production Cost: $100,000
In a royal display of waste, federal officials spent nearly $100,000 of commoners’ money to buy back silver and china antiques wrongly sold in an online auction for less than $4,000. The silver and other items at the Governor General’s residence were on loan from Buckingham Palace, but unsuspecting Public Works bureaucrats failed to pay $500 for an appraisal and accidentally sold what did not belong to Canada. Subjects of the Dominion were left on the hook for $1,500 in appraisals afterwards and more than $95,000 to buy back the imperial decorations. For this year’s nominations from the Silver Smokescreen, this buyback is in contention for gold.
MP Junk-Mail - Inglorious Mailers
Nominated for: “Best children’s comedy”
Production Cost: $10 million
Appealing to younger audiences is not always limited to Question Period for many Members of
Parliament. Using privileges known in Ottawa as “10 percenters,” MPs shared their sense of humour with Canadians by blanketing doorsteps with junk-mail at a cost of $10 million in fiscal year 2008-09 alone. These junk-mail flyers can be sent to other MPs’ ridings – normally to try and win the seat for their party – and have no effective limit to their number. For adults not familiar with this genre of comedy, a Conservative flyer can be expected to show Michael Ignatieff hugging criminals, while a Liberal flyer might show Stephen Harper kicking a puppy. Even though the Conservatives have a headstart in dominating this category, opposition parties are also in contention and gaining fast.
Royal Mint Investigation - Land of the (Not Really) Lost Gold
Nominated for: “Best visual auditing”
Production Cost: $1.4 million
In a classic treasure hunt-epic, the Royal Canadian Mint spent nearly $1.4 million on an investigation into $20 million in missing gold. A twist ending where the gold turned out to not actually be missing all along. Fortunately, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) exposed the investigation’s costs through Access to Information (ATIP) requests. While the treasure-hunt costs do not include the totals of a police investigation, a PR contract with a consulting firm and polling research with Angus Reid, the $1.4 million is more than enough to land it a nomination in this year’s Teddy Waste Awards.
Peguis Band Council Pay - Last of the Millionaire Chiefs
Nominated for: “Best adapted scam-play”
Production Cost: $3.4 million over two years
No expense was too great for the one Manitoba Band Council’s bid to earn a Teddy this year. Nominated by band member whistleblowers that brought secret documents to the CTF, councillors paid themselves – in off-reserve taxable equivalent dollars – between $265,000 and $429,000 per year for the task of overseeing a reserve of 7,200 people. If the Prime Minister of Canada earned as much for each person he represented as one such councillor, then he would rake in $2 billion per year. Since band councils are not required to disclose this information, this may not actually be the Last of the Millionaire Chiefs. Be prepared for a sequel.
Provincial Nominees
Ontario E-Health Scandal - He’s Just Not Into Accountability
Nominated for: “Best romance with consultants”
Production Cost: $1 Billion
To produce a Teddy-worthy nomination, waste needs to have plot twists, intrigue and of course, romance. The McGuinty government’s E-Health scandal fits the bill, and the bill cost taxpayers $1 billion. With government friendly consultants being handed untendered contracts worth $16 million, consultants billing taxpayers to consult with themselves, firms artificially driving up each others’ fees to charge more than contracts were actually worth and the program itself in the end being a total failure. While the consultant-courting scenes bring tears to taxpayers’ eyes, it was the denials and cover-ups from the government, coupled with the premier forcing the wrong minister to take the fall that makes this nomination truly heart warming.
Nova Scotia MLA Expense Scandal - The Ugly Truth (About Politicians)
Nominated for: “Best supporting role for taxpayers”
Production Cost: Varies by politician
While taxpayers think about money with their heads, politicians think about money with their hands. This nomination explores the age old mystery about the different natures of taxpaying givers and politician redistributors, as the Nova Scotia auditor general discovers that politicians aren’t always faithful in this relationship. While Nova Scotia’s politicians were able to keep their late-night rendezvous secret for a time, the auditor general caught them in the act with expense claims such as $8,000 for a generator installed in a politician's home, $13,500 for luxurious office furniture, $2,500 for a television and $800 for an espresso coffee machine. According to the auditor general, Premier Dexter himself joined in the spending orgy with more than $2,000 on a digital camera and $5,500 a laptop. Perhaps the most promiscuous spender of them all was Len Goucher, who billed taxpayers for 11 computers, 12 printers, 5 digital cameras, 4 video cameras, 3 ipods and the “Dance Dance Revolution” game for xBox. The Ugly Truth About Politicians can be raunchy at times, but it’s worth watching.
Newfoundland Minister’s Cellphone Bill - Men Who Stare at Their BlackBerries
Nominated for: “Best & longest script”
Production Cost: $30,000
Former Newfoundland & Labrador Health Minister Paul Oram stared at his BlackBerry long enough to rack up $30,000 in bills in just one year, leaving taxpayers staring at their paystubs wondering why they are on the hook. In a single month, the unrepentant and now-resigned minister billed taxpayers $4,300, meaning that even by the standards of a politician, his script runs a little too long for some to sit through.
BC’s Paid Volunteers - Pay it Forward
Nominated for: “Best use of paid extras”
Production Cost: Priceless
This heart-warming story is nominated for the 241 selfless public servants at the Vancouver Olympic Games who volunteered their time in exchange for money. Their paid-volunteerism truly touched Canadians with their sacrifices, especially those real volunteers not working for the government and who were not paid for giving their time. Taxpayers should be filled with hope that the obviously no critical jobs that these volunteers were filling outside of the Olympics are unnecessary and can be eliminated. Pay it forward Mister Premier.
Municipal Nominees
Toronto’s Paid Fake Homeless - Slumdog Hundredaire
Nominated for: “Best acting”
Production Cost: $10,000 (approximate)
A riches to rags story, the City of Toronto’s Slumdog Hundredaire was nominated for its plan to hire extras at a price of $100 gift cards each to fake homelessness for a day. The plan to help the poor required that homeless people need not apply for the jobs. The wastefulness of paying people to fake homeless is truly worth of a nomination for “best acting.”
Edmonton’s Extravagant Website - State of Play...ing with Other’s Money
Nominated for: “Best graphical representation of government”
Production Cost: $1.4 million
To make a nominee a serious contender in the 21st century, governments need the very best in
technology. It was therefore with ease that the City of Edmonton landed itself a spot by spending a planned $1.4 million on a promotion website aimed at those abroad. Meant to bring people to Edmonton, reports indicate that more than half of the website’s visitors are in fact, Edmontonians. If this city’s municipal politicians keep spending like this, property taxpayers may start leaving with the same frequency that tourists arrive. At 53,000 visits, it worked out to $26 per visit.
Winnipeg Councillor’s Satellite Radio - Star Trick
Nominated for: “Best expense-fiction”
Production Cost: $739
Triquarter readings by the CTF revealed one Winnipeg city councillor went boldly spending where few had spent before. Freedom of Information requests showed Mike O’Shaughnessy spent $739 on a satellite radio and channel subscriptions at taxpayers’ expense. Although this councillor can now receive signals on various frequencies from space, he cannot transmit any justification to taxpayers. When it comes to beaming money out of our wallets, let’s hope that the remake is better than the original series.
Calgary Council’s Dry Cleaning - Taken (To the Cleaners)
Nominated for: “Best costume”
Production Cost: $6,700
Members of Calgary’s City Council took taxpayers to the Dry Cleaners to the tune of $6,700. While the world’s oldest profession may not require clothing to function at work, the world’s second oldest profession – politics – is like almost every other profession and does require clothing. Perhaps these politicians were not aware that wearing clothes to work is a regular job requirement.
Lifetime Achievement
MP and Senator Pensions - The Pension Hangover
Production Cost: $120,000 (example)
The headache felt after politicians leave the rhetorical binge of Parliament is not felt by those who enjoyed the party, but by taxpayers forced to pick up the tab for their MPs’ gold-plated pensions. While most workers in the private sector have no generous pension to look to – relying on their savings, CPP or small pensions – MPs and most of the public-sector guzzle taxpayers’ money with extravagant defined benefit pension plans. A backbench MP with absolutely no extra bonuses would need only to work 10 years to receive a pension today of $46,000. Unfortunately, what happens in Ottawa, doesn’t stay in Ottawa.
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