Last October, the provincial government spent $73,262 on two oath ceremonies for new civil servants Public Eye has exclusively learned. In the past, civil service employment oaths (which require bureaucrats to swear they'll act with integrity and loyally serve the people of British Columbia) have been quiet affairs - administered individually by local "oath commissioners." But, according to documents obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, the Campbell administration felt "there was a perception that the way the oath is currently being administered has diminished its symbolic value." So the government will now be holding ceremonies across the province on a quarterly basis to "make the Employment Oath a more meaningful experience for public service employees."
Catering for the first two events - which were held in Prince George and Victoria and attended by 135 civil service recruits - cost $9,624. But the big ticket items were oath binders handed out to the recruits and their so-called "buddies" or mentors. At $75 each, the total price tag for purchasing 260 of those leather portfolios came in at $19,500.
And that expenditure has set off Canadian Taxpayers Federation provincial director Maureen Bader's government waste alarm. In an interview, Bader said, "It might seem okay to spend other people's money this way. But it shows a disrespect for the taxpayer and will do nothing to improve the economy or reduce the debt."
But community services communications director Anne McKinnon defended the ceremonies saying, "The market for skilled employees is so highly-competitive. So it's crucial for the public service to recruit and retain good staff that they build a relationship with employees early on and engage them in a meaningful way as part of the organization and that's why the sessions have been launched."
Of the $73,262 spent on the ceremonies, $31,790 came in the form of one-time costs - such as the development of content for the orientation session. The total ongoing cost for future events is pegged at $20,736 each.