POLITICS

Taxpayer federation gives Saskatchewan band chief annual Teddy waste award

03/06/2013 11:58 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - A Saskatchewan First Nation chief has been given a spoof award that's handed out annually for wasteful use of tax money.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation named Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation Chief Roger Redman Wednesday as the recipient of its 15th annual national Teddy award.

Redman, whose reserve is home to 443 people, took home more after-tax income last year than Stephen Harper, said the federation.

As well, the federation said each of the band's councillors earns more than the premier of Saskatchewan.

Redman dismissed the award, pointing out that the band council has struggled to balance its books after a difficult year.

"I report to my membership," Redman told The Canadian Press.

"I don't report to the taxpayers federation."

Redman added that prior to last year, his band recorded eight annual budget surpluses, and that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has accepted all of the band's audited financial statements.

Marita Crant, a Standing Buffalo band member who is among elders in the community trying to turf Redman from office, called the award "shameful."

"I really think that . . . he should be ashamed of himself for receiving that kind of award," said Crant.

"It's nothing to be proud of."

The prime minister earned more than $317,000 in 2011, before taxes.

Redman didn't dispute that his income is higher, but suggested it's like comparing apples to oranges when travel expenses are included.

The Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation, located near Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., is struggling to maintain social services for its members.

When a group of band members gathered in January to impeach him, Redman shuttered the band office and community centre and confiscated the band's chequebook, said the federation.

Redman and band elders are currently locked in a legal battle over elections that have been called for Mar. 16.

A senate of elders held nominations for the election last month out in the cold because the locks had been changed on the band's community centre.

Redman maintains that any elections held in March would be illegal and that the elders didn't have the authority to impeach him.

His lawyer, Mervin Phillips, added that INAC has been advised that an election has been set for September.

"There is no election on Mar. 16," Phillips said.

"It's a figment of their imagination."

Lisa Tawiyaka, the chief electoral officer appointed by the band council, confirmed that elections would be held in the community Sept. 17, adding that the elders senate that Crant is part of is illegitimate.

The Teddy awards are named for Ted Weatherill, a former Canada Labour Relations Board chairman who was fired in 1999 after submitting a litany of questionable expenses, including a $700 lunch for two.

The awards are intended to shine a spotlight on corruption and waste in government at every level.

"It's enough to bring you to tears sometimes, these greedy scheming politicians," said federation's national director Gregory Thomas.

"Once a year we can all have a laugh about it, and more importantly, about them."

For the second year running, Alberta has been awarded the provincial Teddy.

This year, it goes to former Alberta Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, who billed taxpayers when she took her mother and daughter to the London Olympics.

Cusanelli later paid the money back.

The City of Toronto's Maintenance and Skilled Trades Council was awarded the 2013 Local Teddy for billing the Toronto Public School District $158 million for completing 293,000 work orders.

Those orders included a $143 bill to attach a pencil sharpener to a desk with four screws, and $266 for hanging three pictures on a wall.

Bev Oda, the former minister responsible for doling out international aid money, won the Lifetime Achievement Teddy.

Oda, who left politics last year, was remembered for expensing various chauffeured limousines and for dinging taxpayers for two luxury hotel stays in London on the same night, along with a $16 glass of orange juice. She is also known to have charged taxpayers for an air purifier so she could smoke in her office.