The provincial government was living it up as the economy was crashing, spending more than half-a-million dollars on parties celebrating civil service excellence. But the government has said those celebrations were necessary to maintain a "high performing workforce" - something that's "even more important during these challenging times."
And it has no plans to be a party pooper by discontinuing the annual premier's innovation and excellence awards, which are meant to recognize the "positive impact the BC Public Service's work is having across the province." According to records exclusively obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, this year's awards cost $562,741.52.
They included four regional parties and one provincial party, taking place between January 21 and March 26. The biggest ticket item was the $137,414.29 spent on videos showcasing nominees and their accomplishments. But catering and facility costs came in a close second at $125,511.70.
That money bought the ceremonies' 1,864 attendees some yummy-sounding food.
In Vancouver, for example, civil servants dined on "wedge of romaine hearts with grape tomatoes" featuring "baked pancetta anchovy toasted brioche" and "Parmigiano-Reggiano buttermilk Caesar dressing."
And that was just the first course.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, bureaucrats were treated to an entrÃ©e of "tender breast of chicken stuffed with sliced pear and Brie cheese" served with "asparagus spears, stuffed Roma tomatoes, baby carrots and Gruyere potatoes gratin."
A government spokesperson stated efforts were made to manage the costs of the ceremonies "as responsibly as possible." In fact, they came in $25,058.48 under their $587,800 budget.
That's principally because of decision not to spend $30,000 on post-ceremony newspaper advertisements announcing the award winners. The reason: according budget records, it was a "cost-saver due to [the] economic downturn."
The spokesperson stated it's "too early" to determine the cost of next year's awards ceremonies because the "provincial budget is yet to be tabled." But Maureen Bader, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's British Columbia director, said there shouldn't be any cost to be determined.
Instead, according to her, the ceremonies should just be cancelled.
"We've got families cutting back - people with low-incomes eating Kraft dinner - and we've got bureaucrats dining on romaine hearts. It's nice to know we have gourmet bureaucrats. However, perhaps it's time to make a few cutbacks."
After all, when the government programasked civil servants last year "what was the most valuable recognition for a job well done" 26 percent of respondents to the online survey choose a personal note from their supervisor.
By comparison, the least popular choice was the premier's innovation and excellence awards at just two percent.
2008/09 premier's innovation and excellence awards budget forecast
Audio-visual requirements - $95,000.00
Award material - $30,000.00
Bus charters for Nanaimo event - $5,600.00
Business expenses for adjudication/judging sessions - $2,500.00
Catering/facilities, etc - $110,00.00
Photographer contract - $8,200.00
Writer contract - $8,500.00
Video production contract - $145,000.00
Decorations - $4,000.00
Judges/adjudicators expenses - $8,000.00
Miscellaneous - $14,000.00
Newspaper ads - $30,000.00
Printing (including program guides) - $18,000.00
Staff travel - $22,000.00
Staff salary and benefits - $77,000.00
Table chocolates - $10,000.00
Total expenses - $587,800.00
2008/09 premier's innovation and excellence awards actuals
Audio-visual requirements - $92,336.06 ("includes crew's travel time & expenses; enhancements for 08/09")
Award material - $33,904.47 ("glass trophies, framed certificates")
Bus charters for Nanaimo event - $4,068.88 ("new requirement for 08/09")
Business expenses for adjudication/judging sessions - $1,964.05 ("venue, lunch provided - 3 session in Victoria 1 session in Vancouver")
Catering/facilities, etc - $125,511.70 ("includes room rental charges; includes Nanaimo, Kamloops, Vancouver, Prince George, and provincial event in Victoria")
Photographer contract - $7,500.00 ("includes contractor's travel expenses")
Writer contract - $8,840.00 ("writing nomination summaries for program guides")
Video production contract - $137,414.29 ("includes crew's travel time @ expenses; enhancements for 08/09")
Decorations - $1,700.00 ("includes all five ceremonies")
Judges/adjudicators expenses - $5,564.30 ("travel claims, thank you gifts")
Miscellaneous - $15,220.54 ("includes procurement services @ $10,000, Shipping costs @ $1,500; Office Supplies @ $500")
Newspaper ads - $0.00 ("post-ceremony ads announcing Premier's Award recipients in local newspapers. Decision was made not to provide post-ceremony newspaper ads, as a cost-saver due t economic downturn")
Printing (including program guides) - $22,618.20 ("includes program guides, photo holders, poster boards, pop-up banners")
Staff travel - $23,293.18 ("Six internal staff members travelling to Vancouver, Prince George, Kamloops and Nanaimo NOTE: travel costs for Aboriginals interns were added after budget forecasting")
Staff salary and benefits - $77,000.00
Table chocolates - $5,805.85 ("rogers' chocolate squares with gold foil P/A label and dvd's for ceremonies")
Total expenses - $562,741.52