High-on-the-hog MP pensions spoofed by tax watchdogs
A Canadian flag flies under the Peace Tower, ahead of the resumption of Parliament in Ottawa, on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, March 11, 2010 7:16AM EST
OTTAWA - The high-on-the-hog pensions enjoyed by MPs and their $10 million in household mailouts have been singled out for spoof awards from a taxpayers group.
The MPs have collectively been awarded golden pigs in the 12th annual Canadian Taxpayers Federation Teddy awards, taking both the federal and lifetime achievement categories.
Nova Scotia MLAs took the provincial category for their scandal over expenses.
The city of Toronto earned the municipal award for a program which paid people to pose as homeless.
The annual awards, first handed out in 1999, poke fun at wasteful spending at all levels of the government.
They are presented about the same time as the Oscars, by a tuxedo-clad emcee who reads out the nominations, then tears open an envelope to name the winner.
"We hold the ceremony each year to enlighten the public about government waste and highlight fat that needs to be trimmed," said Colin Craig, Prairie director for the federation.
The awards -- pig figurines spray-painted gold -- are named after Ted Weatherill, a former federal bureaucrat who was fired in 1999 over his excessive expense claims.
MPs spent $10 million on mailouts -- junk mail, Craig called them -- in 2008-09, which won them the federal waste category.
"Oddly enough, as our deficit skyrocketed, MPs hiked up their usage of these flyers to tell us about everything but the deficit," he said.
The MP pension plan -- they qualify after six years in office and can collect $46,000 annually after just 10 years -- was given the lifetime achievement award.
Craig said it seems the pensions are the one thing that MPs of all stripes agree on.
"Nothing unites them like defending their own benefits."
The Nova Scotia MLAs were singled out over their expenses which, between 2006 and 2009, included video games, cameras and, in one case, 11 computers for a single MLA.
"The Maritime MLAs had expensed just about everything under the sun."
The federation gave the municipal award to Toronto, where the city paid people $100 to dress up and pretend to be homeless as part of an effort to count the number of homeless on the streets.
"It was actually a slap in the face to real homeless people as they were banned from applying for the work," said Craig.
Among the also-rans this year:
-- The Royal Canadian Mint for spending $1.4 million to search for $20 million of missing gold that wasn't really missing.
-- The British Columbia government for paying 241 civil servants to "volunteer" at the Olympics.
-- The city of Edmonton, for spending $1.4 million on a promotional website which attracted only 53,000 visitors from outside Edmonton. That's $26 for each hit.