Over the past few weeks we've all been reading and hearing a lot about a giant inflatable duck that is sure to feature prominently in the upcoming Canada 150 celebrations. While there is most certainly support for the duck, in spite of its $200,000 rental fee, $121,000 of which is being funded (sort of) through a provincial grant, much of the discussion, particularly on talk radio stations has focused on what many believe is an outrageous use of public funds. To that I say, who really gives a duck?
In case you've been trapped inside a windowless box in recent weeks and have missed the story, at issue is a provincial grant of $121,000 to the Redpath Waterfront Festival, who, as part of their Canada Day celebrations, will feature a giant yellow inflatable duck. To the critics of the grant, it seems to not matter that the grant funding was for the festival itself, not specifically the duck, nor does it seem to matter that the festival has received similar-sized grants for their festival in previous years.
Nope, it's a stupid big yellow duck, so obviously this is an example of the wasting of government funds – but is it?
While in my own mind I don't see the duck, or the grant, as a political issue, I know I will irritate some of my conservative friends with my thoughts on the topic, but that's okay, they'll get over it.
I could not even begin to tally the number of times I've heard conservatives suggest that governments should be run like a business, always mindful of the bottom line, and with perhaps equal frequency I've heard conservative types draw comparisons between government budgets and household budgets, with the suggestion that governments need to be as cautious with their funds as citizens must be with their own budgets.
So to those who suggest that the grant funding for this festival, which is renting a giant duck as part of their Canada 150 celebrations, is an outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars, I ask this – what do you do in your own life when a special occasion comes along?
You splurge, I know you do. You spend money that you don't need to, or even that you shouldn't spend. Why? Because you're human, and every now and then humans like to celebrate, humans like a distraction from reality, humans like to let loose every now and then and throw caution to the wind, knowing full well that when the celebration is over, it's back to regularly scheduled programming where pennies are watched, and spending is prioritized.
Was the diamond bracelet really necessary for that special anniversary celebration? Did you really need to get Johnny a new car as a graduation present? Could you really afford the $300 you spent on fireworks for Canada Day last year, or could you have better spent those dollars? Heck, you spent how much on that birthday cake?
I'm not trying to be flippant, and I'm not trying to suggest that governments have a bottomless pool of money that they can just throw around without any accountability, but let's put things into perspective. The 150th birthday of our nation is something to celebrate, and any celebration will cost you some money that in the strictest sense probably shouldn't be spent. Let's also note, and agree that $121,000 from the province is literally pocket change out of the hundreds of billions of dollars that is the provincial budget.
Is a giant inflatable duck silly? Of course it is, but so are party hats and kazoos. Sometimes silly is exactly what we need, otherwise folks like Jim Carrey (keeping the theme Canadian) would never have had a career.
Personally, I'm not much of a fan of public celebrations, so I truly don't care what any community or festival does to celebrate special events like the birthday of our nation as long as everyone is safe and has some fun.
Whether there's a giant duck floating around Ontario in July or not, it isn't really costing you any more or less than you're already paying, though for those who are outraged, perhaps this bit of perspective will make you feel a little better – based on Ontario's population of roughly a 13.6 million people, your personal share of the cost, the cost to every man, woman and child for the giant duck is almost a full penny, $0.0089 to be exact. It costs you more in the value of your own time to complain about it than what is actually coming out of your pocket.
By the way, the big duck will be coming to Owen Sound July 7-9, though I'm sure with all the rage I've been hearing and reading lately, nobody will want to go check it out, if only for a good laugh.
Photo: Redpath Waterfront Festival