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'Email a tree': Vancouver gets gov't waste award for $12K art project
A plaque on a Vancouver tree is shown in a photo posted to Twitter by the city's park board in August 2008.
The City of Vancouver was sarcastically honoured by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for an initiative that allowed to "email a tree."
Vancouver's park board won the CTF's Municipal Teddy Award for the project that the federation says cost about $50,000.
The awards were named for Ted Weatherill, a former federal government appointee fired in 1999 for "dubious expense claims, including a $700 lunch," the CTF said in a release.
The tree email idea was part of an project meant to highlight local artists. The city posted signs with ID numbers and email addresses on about two dozen trees in the Jericho and Point Grey areas, inviting visitors to get in touch via email.
The CTF said five artists were given $10,000 each to respond to those emails "within a week," acting as the trees.
In an email, a city spokesperson said the trees received about 100 emails. She said the budget for the project was $12,000, not the $50,000.
The project ran for a year, and those who responded to emails were given an honorarium out of that budget, she said.
The artist who came up with the idea, Holly Schmidt, was chosen by community members and other artists as part of an annual initiative put on by the park board.
Provincial winners: Craig James and Gary Lenz
The CTF also honoured two senior civil servants who made headlines following their suspension from the B.C. Legislature.
The Speaker alleges Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz used taxpayer money to fund trips, activities, gifts and, among other items, a $10,000 trailer for a wood splitter.
In statements released through their legal teams, James and Lenz claim the wood splitter was purchased for "earthquake preparedness."
The allegations have not been proven in court and an RCMP investigation is ongoing. Both men remain on paid leave pending the results.
National recipients: Justin Trudeau and Adrienne Clarkson
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "won" the federal Teddy for an eight-day trip to India last February. The trip, the CTF says, cost at least $1.6 million, but only a few hours of official government business was on the itinerary.
The trip included $17,000 for a celebrity chef from Vancouver and $3,600 for Team Canada hockey jerseys.
And during the visit it became known that an attempted assassin had been invited to a meet-and-greet event with the prime minister.
Speaking in Vancouver in the days that followed, retired Surrey resident Jaspal Atwal said he took full responsibility for his past and now renounces terrorism in all forms.
A Member of Parliament said the invite was issued by an inexperienced staffer who failed to recognize the man's name.
Atwal served prison time following a conviction for an attempt on the life of an Indian cabinet minister who was visiting Vancouver Island in 1986.
The CTF also recognized Adrienne Clarkson, a former governor general, for trips made during her time in office and the years that followed.
In October, it was reported that Clarkson had billed more than $1 million in expenses since 2005.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan
More information on the award winners and nominees is available in this backgrounder from the CTF.