Ontario taxpayers got Canada Goosed.
The Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services spent $53,948 buying staff at youth correctional facilities luxury brand Canada Goose parkas to keep them warm on the job.
Progressive Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones had made repeated tries to get an explanation for the expense that turned up in the 2015-16 public accounts.
Jones said she’d heard a rumour that the coats were purchased for staff, and a ministry spokesman later confirmed to the Toronto Sun that was the case.
“It speaks to an out-of-touch ministry or government that doesn’t understand the optics of a children and youth ministry buying luxury clothing items,” Jones said Thursday. “What do they embroider on the back of the coat? We’re from the government and we’re here to help? C’mon.”
While the ministry is not releasing the cost of each coat, they can easily retail for $1,000 per parka or more.
Many provincial workers require cold-weather gear, including those who spend all day outside, but aren’t outfitted with the posh parkas.
Alicia Ali, a spokesman for Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau, who was not the minister at the time of the purchase, said the coats are owned by the ministry and are returned when a staff member changes jobs.
“We operate a number of youth justice facilities across northern Ontario in order to keep young people close to home and connected with their communities,” Ali said. “When necessary due to low temperatures coats are provided to staff who are supervising and engaging in outdoor recreational activities with the youth in our facilities.”
Ali said the Canada Goose jackets were purchased in bulk to save money after receiving no other “qualified bids” in an open, competitive bidding process.
“We are committed to spending dollars wisely so that staff have the supports they need to tough the cold weather throughout our province, all while delivering quality services to young people,” she said.
Canada Goose did not return a request for comment.
Jones said it was hard to imagine how the Kathleen Wynne government could defend such a purchase, especially when there had to be more affordable options available.
”It’s a Ministry that by its very mandate has to serve and protect vulnerable children,” she said. “Where is the mandate that says, and while you’re protecting vulnerable children and fighting for services, you should be walking around in a luxury Canada Goose parka?”
The ministry is charged with providing support to children on the Autism spectrum and with other special needs, indigenous children and youth, children and teens up for adoption, and youth in a variety of custody centres from open custody to secure custody.
Jones said the government has been reluctant to provide her with any information on the parkas.
In January, the PCs put in a Freedom of Information request for the unit cost of the parkas, and were told that Canada Goose didn’t want the price released for competitive reasons, she said.
“It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast in trying to get to the bottom of it,” Jones said.
Toronto Sun by Antonella Artuso
May 4th 2017