|Posted on January 10, 2016 at 4:10 PM|
The other day at a dinner party I overheard somebody say they couldn't afford to buy a head of broccoli because of the enormous cost. This woman told her friend she was worried her kids wouldn't be getting the best to eat.
I empathized with her - and I know so many of you do as well.
That's why this weekend, when I read a Toronto Star investigative report had revealed that the controversial "eco fee" demanded by the Wynne liberals was being directed towards extravagant lifestyles that included copious amounts of booze, fancy hotels, sunset cruises, and (wait for it) Liberal Party of Ontario fundraisers, I was beside myself.
Trying to find out exactly what program endorsed by the Ontario government does and why they do it is frustrating. In fact one reporter from the Globe and Mail wrote that "extracting key details" from the province on eco fees was "like pulling teeth" and that "questions were met with blank stares, followed by a return to talking points about the merits of environmentalism."
The Ontario Tire Stewardship Program (OTS) is an organization that was given permission to slap an "eco fee" of approximately $5 on every tire sold in Ontario. The Ontario Liberals authorized their fees to consumers and businesses in an effort to promote environmentalism; they are an organization that "operates a province wide used tire collection and recycling program funded by payments from tire manufacturers and suppliers in Ontario and receives no monies from the government or taxpayer funds."
But of course they do, they just insist the fee imposed by the government isn't a tax.
Whatever you want to call it, the Toronto Star revealed the OTS board engaged in the following:
- A 3-day, $16,104 staff meeting at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa;
- A sunset boast cruise on Lake Rosseau in Muskoka last summer;
- A $2,023 vineyard tour and a five-course tasting menu, that came with 10 bottles of wine and included $2,200 worth of accommodations at the Prince of Wales Hotel;
- Dinner enjoyed with elk tenderloin, wild boar chops, cabernet sauvignon and Italian lager on the menu;
- An eight-person meal for $646.36 at Bistro 990 (one of Toronto's most expensive restaurants), that included oysters, crème brûlée, Guinness, Jack Daniels, gin martinis and cabernet sauvignon;
- A $1,235.23 board meeting at The Rosseau Muskoka resort that included a $332 Buick rental car, $111 LCBO tab and a cruise on a 40-foot 1920s-era private yacht;
- A $2,000 dinner at Le Germain Hotel to celebrate the holidays;
- Ipads for board members as "Christmas gifts";
- And yes...even Power Smoothies to replenish their energy, I'm assuming, after a day of hard thinking about how to save the environment.
It reminded me of that woman at the dinner party who said she couldn't afford fresh vegetables for her kids. It reminded me of Kathleen Wynne, who asked Ontarians to change their way of life and do the laundry in the wee hours of morning before tired men and women get up and go to work. It's the arrogant sense of privilege and dueness that I'm seeing day after day, as we hear government CEOs and politicians collect their end of year tax-funded profits, bonuses, pensions and raises while the rest of us struggle.
In an organization that collects millions in fees from consumers (and yes, consumers are taxpayers), these grossly lavish expenditures might be a drop in the bucket, but it's the entitlement that disturbs me. They are "highly skilled volunteers who receive no remuneration, says their statement, and they maintain "the highest standards and practices and a strict focus on controlling costs to ensure we use funds provided by stewards responsibly."
The rest of us continue to be the real stewards of how our own money is spent, sacrificing that head of broccoli for dinner this week.
True stewards think about how something is managed and cared for and put that into action. In the Ontario liberals case, it's how much they can get out of our wallets to experience a life most of us dream of and to stay in power.