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April 30, 2021

Feds spend $15 million of your money on bottled water

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

No, the kid from Blank Check isn’t running parliament. I checked.

In a revelation yesterday even Ottawa would admit is ill-timed, documents came to light showing the federal government has spent more than $15 million on bottled water in the last five years, $10 million of that in the last three.

Now, you don’t need me here to tell you that $15 million for water could, yeah, probably be spent a little bit wiser. But if one thing’s for sure about Canadians, it’s that they don’t like wasted taxpayer money.

And people are pissed off.

One advocacy group has already dubbed the issue “Bottled Watergate,” and another cast if off as “deeply, deeply concerning.”

Before we pile on, there is one defence for the feds worth mentioning: not all the water money was seemingly tossed away. In the documents detailing the water expenses, some $3.3 million of the $15 million ($15.7 million, actually) was tabbed by Indian and Northern Affairs over the past five years and sent to supply First Nations reserves where the safety of drinking water was suspect.

So, that’s okay.

Yet, that still leaves a cool $12.4 million which, no matter what the case, leaves us with the image of two suits breezing by some City Hall water fountain to grab a crisp, cold Evian from the nearest mini fridge.

It’s still early, but so far there hasn’t been much response to the spending from the feds who, rightfully, probably have more pressing matters to deal with. But what’s going to irk the public further is that, of the $12.4 million, there didn’t seem to be much of an effort to conserve on the government’s behalf.

Most of us realize that $12.4 million – spread over the entire nation, over half a decade – really isn’t that much, but that belies the point here. It seems  like waste and, from a government intent on leading the charge to ban the plastic water bottle anyway, a bit hypocritical.

How many millions of that taxpayer cash could’ve been saved if water fountains were better used or, if handouts were necessary, government workers were given reusable bottles they could refill on their own?

Even while most of Bottled Watergate’s spending was done before the economy tanked, the news of it broke during the recession. And that means now, more than any other time, the feds are probably going to have their hands full answering to this one.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...