Opinion » Editorial

Keeping an eye on the dollars and 'sense'



I have to admit that over the last few months, as I have read about how public money is being spent by all levels of government, I have been left scratching my head about some of the decisions behind the handouts.

Nationally I still can't get over the federal Tobacco Transition Program. What, you don't remember reading about that one? Well this $284-million dollar program was aimed at encouraging tobacco farmers to get out of the business. But what actually happened, according to the Auditor General of Canada and reported by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CFA), was a shell game. More than half of those who received money weren't actually active tobacco farmers while other families shifted land and equipment to other family members who kept on farming. Hmmm.

Every year the CFA awards its "Teddies" for the worst use of taxpayers' money. The tobacco program took a top award this year.

The Teddy Waste Award is named for Ted Weatherill, a former federal government employee who was dismissed in 1999 for his outrageous expenses.

At the provincial level Alberta took the award for paying politicians to sit on a committee that has not met in years. Montreal was the municipal winner for snowplows caught on camera clearing snow-free sidewalks. The video went viral on YouTube, receiving almost 400,000 views.

This year BC Hydro was nominated for paying $42.3 million in performance bonuses to 99 per cent of its employees, including $840,000 for executives, $31 million for management and professional staff and $10.5 million for unionized employees.

I wonder what the poor "one per cent" did to fail to get a bonus. So much for the big picture. What about closer to home?

This week we have learned that the $109 million Whistler Sliding Track is undergoing a $1.7 million upgrade to bring the doubles, relay and women's' start up to snuff. The start position for athletes was changed following the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili Feb 12, 2010 — the opening day of the Winter Olympic Games. Following the Games the sport's governing body FIL — Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course — said changes needed to be made to the Whistler track if international competitions were to be held — this is the same organization that signed off on the track as far as safety went before the 2010 Games.

But it is Canadian taxpayers on the hook for the upgrades — though-be-it from a fund set up by Olympic officials at the time for these types of costs.

How many teachers could $1.7 million fund, how many beds for seniors who need a hand, how many people could that money help re-train to get them back into the workforce?

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