OTTAWA — Foam chickens. Backpacks. Lip balm. Cufflinks. Baby bibs. Fake tattoos.
The list reads like a bad yard sale but it's actually just a few of the promotional items on offer from various government of Canada departments and agencies.
Conservative Arnold Viersen, the rookie Alberta MP for Peace River-Westlock, requested a comprehensive breakdown of promotional materials through an order paper question in the House of Commons.
A woman takes a photograph while holding a Canadian flag during a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., on July 1, 2009. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)
The response this week — in both official languages — weighed in at 199 pages, headlined by Heritage Canada's $1 million spent between Nov. 4, 2015, when the new Liberal government took office, and April 22 of this year.
The Heritage booty includes three million temporary tattoos, four million pins and 1.5 million paper flags.
Farm Credit Canada, a self-sustaining Crown corporation that returns an annual dividend to Ottawa, spent $644,000 on promotional items that ranged from spongy stress-ball chickens, pigs and cows to winter jackets, barbecue sets and pocket knives.
Spokesman Trevor Sutter said agri-business has been booming and credit competition intense in recent years, and promotional items are just part of the farm finance game.
Tory MP Arnold Viersen is shown speaking in the House of Commons in May 2016. (Photo: Parlvu screengrab)
He also noted the Crown corporation earns back about 17 per cent of the cost of promotional goods through discounted sales to employees and partners.
Considering its tourism marketing mandate, Destination Canada was a relative promotional piker, spending just $168,622 — the biggest single item being $31,000 on calendars for 2016.
And most government departments either spent nothing at all or a tiny fraction of the big players.
Viersen's office said the MP hadn't yet fully digested the order paper response and wasn't prepared to comment Thursday.
Here's a breakdown of some of the more notable listed items:
— Lips are sealed at the Canadian Security Establishment with their promotional lip balm (500 units, $810), while 300 CSE Rubik cubes keep wits sharp, a bargain at $2,445.
— For nervous nukes, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission spent $1,509 on "'Nuclear Watchdog' fidget toy dogs" and $420 on colour-changing mood pens.
— What else could bring tears of gratitude to a librarian's eye than Library and Archives Canada's 4,000 promotional eye glass wipes?
— Health Canada bought 644 baby bibs to help promote immunization.
— The Immigration department spent $36,300 on some 330,000 Canadian flags, more than enough for every single immigrant to the country in 2016.
— The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions spent $20,400 on 425 "Fugitive backpacks" for a clean getaway.
— Among the $149,328 in promotional items purchased by the diplomats at Global Affairs Canada were neck ties, cuff links and tie tacks — but also Canada-logo temporary tattoos, perhaps for a bit of street cred.
— Finance Canada spent $427 on promotional cuff links for 12 male ministers attending a finance ministers meeting, and $23.38 on a brooch for the lone female minister. Cathy Bennett, Newfoundland and Labrador's finance minister, might want to check the math on that one as it appears she received just 66 cents on the men's dollar.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: