What the duck? Canadians squawk at commemorative float cost
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
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A giant rubber duck coming to Brockville this summer as part of the Ontario government’s celebrations of Canada’s 150th anniversary has taxpayers taking a bath, says a provincial politician.

Ontario PC MPP Vic Fedeli said the $200,000 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?"

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."

The 61-foot floating duck will be coming to Brockville as part the city’s Rails to Trails festival from August 10-13. With stops also planned in Toronto, Midland, Amherstburg and Sault Ste. Marie to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday on July 1, the giant duck tour of Ontario is expected to cost about $200,000, according to Ontario 150 co-producer Lea Parrell. Brockville, for its part, received $50,000 in Celebrate Ontario grants to stage the festival and that money came on top of $70,000 previously announced from Ontario 150 funding.

Of that cost, 90 per cent is covered by grants, with the largest share from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, he told Postmedia. Parrell added the province didn't cover all of the duck-related expenses.

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Eleanor McMahon cautioned against focusing too much on the duck, because she thinks it is much ado about nothing.

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.

Tourism ministry spokesman Jeff 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.

"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, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Another Twitter user asked: "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.

 




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