Protecting the pets they love



Colbert Dat costly
December 9, 2009


By Lindsey Cole
The Oshawa Express

Mayor John Gray says council couldn’t have paid enough money for the publicity Stephen Colbert Day brought. 
But one councillor says the $40,000 price tag council wasn’t told about is quite the price the taxpayer had to pay.
Councillor John Henry says he was shocked to learn the event cost thousands and council was never really kept in the loop about it. He was also shocked to learn at the lengths he would have to go to in order to get a list of all the expenses pertaining to that day, he says.
Councillor Henry filed a Freedom of Information request in early September pertaining to Colbert Day, which happened March 20, 2007, after he says he was denied the information initially from city staff. After paying $117 he got all the information he needed, he adds.
Colbert Day, or the “Grin and Bear it Festival,” took place at the General Motors Centre after U.S. talk-show host Stephen Colbert and Mayor Gray made a hockey bet and the mayor lost. The event raised more than $9,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

“I should be entitled to all documents,” Councillor Henry says, adding he simply wanted to compare the $1,400 expenses for the KISS concert to the money spent for Colbert Day, since council never set an amount for expenses and never talked about it.
“I wanted to know how much money we spent. I assumed the event was free,” he says.
“It’s not about keeping your job, it’s about doing your job.”
So how did more than $40,000 get spent without council approving it, he says he asked.
According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Mayor John Gray’s signature was on a number of statements, including one for $26,765, which paid to have Don Cherry speak at the event.
Councillor Henry says council should have been told about the spending.
“I’m angry with myself that I didn’t pick this up earlier. I have an obligation to the taxpayer,” he explains.
“It’s my job to know what’s going on. We’re better than this. I’m a taxpayer too.”
But Mayor Gray says he was acting well within his boundaries as council did approve to have Colbert Day and he had authority to sign for the celebrity speaker.
“Members of council certainly knew what was happening. The perspective from our staff was we couldn’t buy this kind of publicity for our city,” he says.
The budget for the Colbert expenses fell under a branding exercise for the city as it was looking for a new slogan and marketing strategy for the city to boost its image.
Mayor Gray says Colbert Day fell well within this realm.
“That’s how we were able to pay for it,” he says.

“I don’t think we were able to make any motions at council. I don’t believe so. At that time you wouldn’t find anyone who would find fault with it (the day or the spending.) I’ve had authorization with certain things and they tagged it in for that branding exercise.”
The City’s Commissioner of Corporate Services Rick Stockman and Finance Director Chris Brown say Mayor Gray has authority to approve expenses over $20,000.
“That he had authority for. If you are looking for a particular personality you have to pay for what the market demand is at the time,” Brown explains.
“The mayor gave us an account and I approved it. That’s where we are from the finance perspective.”

Generally when you make council expenditures you have council approve it, he says, but in this case it not only fell under the branding exercise but was an amount the mayor could sign for.


“You couldn’t buy 30 seconds for $50,000,” he adds.
Stockman couldn’t agree more.
“As long as it fits in our bylaw. The mayor is head of the corporation and we have to recognize that from time to time,” he says.
And as for the $40,000 price tag, Mayor Gray says the city should be proud of that day as it brought widespread attention from all over North America.
“It was huge for the city. This opportunity fell into our lap. It grew as we went along. Once it came, it didn’t require any further follow up,” he says.
“I mean how many Colbert Days are we going to have?”
“It was a very unique day. If you want to put it under the microscope and put a negative light on it then so be it. I have nothing to hide.”


Facility rental – 0
GMC House Expense – 5,835
GMC Production Expenses – 1,271
Celebrity Speaker - $26,765
Lighting and Sound - $4,644
Miscellaneous – $4,424
Total - $41,424



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