The Ontario government will celebrate the country’s 150th birthday with a giant rubber duck — and taxpayers are taking a bath.
Ontario PC MPP Vic Fedeli said the $200,000 birthday duck tour — more than half of it covered by Ontario — is a sure sign of a government with “messed up” priorities.
“I cannot imagine what the rubber duck’s connection is to the 150th,” Fedeli said. “They’re laying off frontline health-care workers right across Ontario … They can’t find money for alternative level of care beds, but they can find $200,000 for some kind of a duck promo?”
The six-storey-tall, 13,600-kilogram yellow duck is being brought to Toronto by the Redpath Waterfront Festival, at a total cost of $200,000, combining a provincial contribution and other funding such as corporate sponsorship.
The total grant for the Toronto portion of the tour was closer to $121,325, according to tourism ministry spokesman Jeff Costen.
Costen denied any funding was specifically for the inflatable duck, arguing the funding is more of an investment, with every dollar estimated to trigger about $20 in visitor spending.
Stops are planned in Toronto, Midland, Brockville, Amherstburg and Sault Ste. Marie to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, according to Ontario 150 co-producer Lea Parrell.
He said the price tag includes renting the duck from a man in the United States who owns it, transporting it, inflating it, using a crane to lift it onto a barge, towing the barge, bringing it to Ontario communities, marketing, and on-site support such as portable toilets and extra fencing so people don’t fall in the water.
Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Eleanor McMahon cautioned against focusing too much on the duck, because she thinks it is much ado about nothing.
To Florentijn Hofman, the Dutch artist who inspired the creation of a world famous — some might say pointless — 30,000-pound rubber ducky, the giant toy highlights earth’s “global bathtubs.”
In describing his work, Hofman once told reporters: “It means we’re living on one planet.”
To others, though, it represents government waste — and further confirmation that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are living in an alternate universe.
“We’ve been aware of this duck for a few years,” Parrell told Postmedia, “Tourists and children love it and it’s been all over but it has never been to Canada before.”
He added: “People can’t wait for this duck to come.”
The early returns suggest otherwise.
“Ontarians are paying $1 billion a month in debt interest payments alone, but the Wynne govt has $200k for a giant floating duck,” tweeted Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Another Twitter user, @Victoria59L, tweeted: “What on earth does a giant floating duck have to do with Canada’s 150th.”
Ryan Fraser (@fraserrc) added sarcastically, “When I think of Ontario’s 150th birthday, a big rubber duck definitely comes to my mind.”
This isn’t the first time funding for this year’s celebration has been scrutinized.
Queen’s Park also came under fire earlier this year after it was revealed the Ontario government spent $30,000 on a logo some deemed boring and basic.
— With files by The Canadian Press
Toronto Sun by Sun Staff
May 29th 2017