Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big 3 Earn Gilded Pigs Awards-For Wasting $780 Million

OTTAWA — The Big Three automakers were handed statuettes of gilded pigs Wednesday, emblematic of what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation describes as lifetime waste achievement awards for all the government money they have been given in the last five years.

The statues — dubbed Teddies — were awarded during the lobby's 11th annual ceremony on Parliament Hill to underline government waste. It noted General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have received $780 million in government cash during the last five years yet continue to shed thousands of jobs while asking for more aid.

"The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has long opposed corporate welfare in all its forms by all levels of government," said CTF federal director Kevin Gaudet. "The Big Three are no exception."

Both GM and Chrysler are asking for $10 billion in bailout money from the federal government. Neither company returned calls about the Teddies.

Ford Canada has not requested any government money and has "no plans to do so," according to Lauren More, vice-president of communications for Ford Canada.

The Federal Teddy went to the Canada Council for the Arts for spending $15,000 to bring a Belgian art exhibit that produced fake excrement when fed. "The Canada Council literally knows how to make an art out of waste," Gaudet said.

The Provincial Teddy went to Manitoba's All Nations Co-ordinated Response Network for disguising a "spa day" for their employees as a workshop. Employees enjoyed spa treatments and tarot card readings to the tune of $2,292. The CTF complained, however, and the organization is now responsible for the bill.

The Municipal Teddy went to the City of Vancouver for its Olympic athletes village. What was supposed to be a $193-million profit turned into an $875-million debt as a result of condos being built for twice what they are worth.

Gaudet hopes the awards draw some attention to the problem of carelessness with tax dollars. He believes that the since the awards were introduced there has been a "slow move in the right direction," noting the Harper government's efforts to become more transparent by posting expenses online.

Gaudet said that though the awards are meant to be lighthearted, they also showcase a serious problem in Canada.

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