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This article was published 11/3/2009 (3087 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- It's an award, but not exactly the kind anyone wants to win.
The All-Nations Co-ordinated Response Network (ANCR), the central intake and investigative unit for child welfare in Manitoba, has been singled out by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in its annual Teddies Waste Awards for wasting tax money on a "spa day" for employees last spring. The prize is a golden sow trophy, though CTF federal director Kevin Gaudet acknowledged nobody has ever shown up to collect the prize.
"This is the award ceremony politicians don't want to go to," Gaudet said.
The Teddies are an annual event that mimics major entertainment awards and are meant to use humour to draw attention to instances of ridiculous government waste.
ANCR won in the provincial government category for holding a workshop for its 165 staff in May 2008 that included tarot-card readings, makeup lessons, manicures and pedicures. It was going to use its budget to pay for $2,300 in services, but Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh kiboshed that plan when he was informed about it by the CTF in September.
Gaudet said it's pretty obvious why "spa day" won the award.
"Do you get free manicures and pedicures?" he asked. "It's a clear waste of cash."
A CTF freedom-of-information request yielded claims by the government that the workshop had been beneficial and helped reduce sick days, absenteeism, and workers' compensation claims and improved employee productivity.
A spokeswoman for Mackintosh said ANCR was given until the end of this month to repay any tax money used for the personal services, but she wasn't able to find out whether the bill has been repaid yet or not.
"As soon as the minister learned about the spa day, he directed the Southern Authority to ensure that no taxpayers' dollars would be used to cover the personal expenses of any agency staff," said Rachel Morgan.
Teddies award recipients are selected from nominations submitted by CTF employees and supporters or even members of the general public.
In keeping with the movie-award theme, ANCR was nominated for "best makeup."
The federal Teddy was awarded to the Canada Council for the Arts for spending $15,000 to bring a Belgian art exhibit to Quebec that produces a poop-like substance when fed with food, and $40,000 for a project to fly a giant inflatable banana over the state of Texas.
"You can't make that stuff up," Gaudet said. "I'm not that creative."
The municipal award went to Vancouver for a fiasco involving the Olympic athletes' village that saddled the city with an $875-million debt.
The Big Three automakers were given a lifetime achievement award for coming back to government over and over again for handouts totalling $780 million in grants and loans over the last five years, then still cutting thousands of jobs in recent months.
The City of Winnipeg was nominated, but did not win, for running a boat-tour service that lost more than $40,000 in six years. Mayor Sam Katz cancelled the boat tours for 2009.