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Volpe wins the Oscar for waste

[PoliticsWatch Updated 11:45 p.m. March 1, 2006]

OTTAWA  —  The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has singled out former immigration minister Joe Volpe in their dubious annual awards for government waste.

Volpe won the federal "Teddy" award -- which are modelled on the Academy Awards -- for his ministerial expense claims, which included a now infamous $138 tab for pizza. 

"In just a few short months, Volpe and his staff racked up more than $60,000 in travel and hospitality," said Tasha Kheiriddin of the taxpayers federation.

This included two dinners on March 21, 2005, where Volpe and guests dined at the Ottawa restaurant Allegro for $507.39 and just a few hours later ate at another restaurant for $80.14. 

Volpe, who is considered a possible contender for the Liberal leadership race, edged out three other nominees, including a number of spending controversies at Public Works, tattoo parlours being set up in six federal jails and Indian Affairs awarding a $132,000 contract to a firm for a verbal report. 

The CTF instituted the Teddies in 1999 to recognize a public office holder, civil servant or government that most exemplifies government waste, over-spending, excessive regulation, lack of accountability, or any combination of the four.

They are named in honour of Ted Weatherill, a former senior public servant terminated in 1999 for his expenses. 

While the $60,000 in expenses rung up by Volpe may seem small in comparison to many instances of government of waste, Kheiridden did not have a problem with the picking the former minister as the winner.

"I think there is a real sense in Ottawa that individual MPs and individual public servants also have to rein in these expenses," she said. 

"We think with a new government in place it's a good way to remind them that taxpayers don't stand for these kinds of things."

Kheiridden said some of Volpe's expenses don't seem reasonable. 

Former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall was also "honoured" with a lifetime achievement award from the taxpayers federation after his lobbying, expense and severance controversies in 2005. 

Winners of the Teddies receive a gold-coloured pig figurine called a "Golden Sow" award,

Kheiridden says none of the winners over the past years have ever picked up their award and the federation does not send them to the "winners."

Past winners in the federal category include the sponsorship scandal and the federal gun registry. 

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