Dining with The Culture Makers

Outrage over CBC executives’ expense accounts is all the rage this season. Much as it was in the 40s, when execs regularly used these accounts to double their salaries. Most of it was spent on hard liquor in the prairies. Those were the days! Nowadays you spend it on a Harvard education and the media makes you look like a douche.

My recommendation to Sylvain Lafrance is that he use his CBC American Express to buy a big bag of cocaine and as much poutine as he can handle. Someone might as well get some enjoyment out of this money. Our audiences sure aren’t.

These newspapers have the patience of Job. They planted the seeds of these shocking revelations months ago with a series of well-placed ATI requests. But for regular folk like you and me, who don’t have access to the fancy machinery of journalism, and who are too stingy to pay for stamps, too lazy to send letters, and who have been let down by the whole process, we can browse the travel expenses of CBC executives, as reported by CBC executives on their website.

There are no receipts here. And no names of dining partners, restaurants, or hotels. We have to take their word for it.

Sometimes they trip themselves up with eager displays of frugality. The site tells us that William B. Chambers has staff in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal. “In a typical week, the Vice-President, Communications, spends time in each city,” the web site tells us.

But between April 1 and June 30 of 2008 he books no travel expenses for Toronto. Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver, yes, but never Toronto. I thought he was supposed to go every week? Maybe he just got lazy?

Wait a minute. No travel, but entertainment. On April 7th, he spent $74.53 in Toronto on something tantalizingly called “duty entertainment with influencer.” How much influence does 75 bucks buy these days, I wonder? And is The Brass Rail involved? The fact that no strip clubs are mentioned on this site at all is suspicious in itself.

These expenses are obviously underreported. But they never promised us the whole of the truth here. Just enough to make it look like they’re being transparent. Probably because flying someone 4 times a week to different cities across Canada and then home again, plus meals, hotels, and toothpaste to come up with “Canada Lives Here,” would make for an eye-popping bill.

We’ve had the same logo since 1992. Just make it bigger for billboards and smaller for lapel pins. And didn’t they teach you how to use a telephone in Vice-President, Communications School?

If William Chambers gets tripped up in his own lies, Richard Stursberg is a bit more straightforward. Yes, you will fly my wrinkly ass to Vancouver and put me up for 8 days to have my picture taken, and yes, you will fly me there again and put me up for another 9 days over Christmas.

George Smith spent $2,243.97 in March 3008 to meet CMG President Dan Oldfield in Phoenix. What were those guys doing down there? And if they wanted to go somewhere warm, why Phoenix? Don’t they know how lame it is? I guess they do now. Jesus Christ guys, do I have to spell it out for you? All right: L-A-S. V-E-G-A-S.

George Smith also spent $3,788.92 over three days on a “tour of Winnipeg facilities with H. Lacroix.” That seems like a lot of time and money to see something we already own, which I know is not very big. We’re not talking about the Louvre here. I suspect a few days of old-tyme hard liquor consumption was in order. In which case Mr. Smith and Mr. Lacroix should know that they are in good company, historically.

Speaking of Hubert, he claimed travel expenses of $18 when meeting with unions in Toronto on May 15, 2008. Seven days later he claimed $772.13 to meet with the same unions, also for one day. I guess after the first trip of sleeping on his buddy’s couch and eating Taco Bell he said “frack this noise, I’m the President of the CB-galdarn-C!” When they asked him to go again, he stayed at the Royal York and ate filet mignon.

Surely there’s a happy medium?

Take Timothy Casgrain, for example. Despite having a job in which no one knows what he’s supposed to be doing, his expense schedule reveals a rarefied atmosphere in which he sups with the Canadian cultural elite and dines with influential decision makers.

He has a “business meal with former CBC/Radio-Canada President & CEO” on April 1, 2008. What business is he discussing with that unemployed bum, I wonder? He has business meals with an Ernst & Young representative, the Chair of the CBC/Radio-Canada Board of Directors, and the Auditor General of Canada, among others. It all sounds very glamorous until you look at the bills: $22.76, $50.15, $31.87, and with the Auditor General? $23.21.

It would seem that Canada’s cultural elite dine at The Keg when the taxpayer is footing the bill and the Auditor General is sitting across the table.

On paper, anyways.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 9:22 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I don’t care if Stursberg’s expenses are consistent with CBC corporate policies and fall well within what can be considered best business practices throughout the public and private sectors, the entire thing is simply WRONG!! Taxpayers do not pay for Stursberg to hang out in posh hotels, eat fancy meals, drink expensive champagne, and so on. If he wants to live poshly, and don’t want to pay for it himself, then he’ll have to find a job with a private company (and charge it to their business account) and not one that is funded by the Canadian people!!

  2. Allan
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 11:00 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    NOV. 26 – Under the headline, CBC executive privilege, Christina Spencer reports:

    The executive vice-president of CBC’s English services claimed more than $85,000 in expenses for hospitality, travel and benefits in just over two years, including one night at a New York hotel for $738.85.

    The claims under Richard Stursberg’s name, made public through the federal Access to Information law, ranged from that 2006 New York trip for an NHL meeting, to a one-year membership at the Toronto Athletic Club for $2,008.70. The claims also cover items such as the purchase of a voice recorder for $459.99 and a copy of a newspaper cartoon for $114.

    It’s not clear which expenses were Stursberg’s personal business claims and which he authorized as wider departmental expenses in his role as senior manager. Queries to the CBC about specific claims were not clarified yesterday.

    But CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said Stursberg’s expenses “are consistent with CBC corporate policies and fall well within what can be considered best business practices throughout the public and private sectors.”

    The CBC receives about 60% of its budget from taxpayers.

    The documents, obtained by researcher Ken Rubin, show the vice-president’s routine included business meals at restaurants such as Brassai, Azure and the Crush Wine Bar in Toronto.

    In April, 2006, Stursberg claimed a dinner with then-CBC president Robert Rabinovitch and at least one other person — part of the record is blanked out — for $483.09 at Toronto’s Trattoria Sotto Sotto. In total, he filed claims for at least $1,400 for dinners involving Rabinovitch that year.

    In March, 2007, he filed a claim for a meal with comedian Rick Mercer and at least one other person — again, part of the record is blanked out — for $616.34.

    In one claim, Dec. 5, 2007, Stursberg expensed $2,886.90 for a senior management committee dinner. On Dec. 27, 2007, he made another claim for $2,119.20 for catering of a senior management team dinner.

    Stursberg’s athletic club membership and a membership in a club called The Spoke were part of his compensation package, Keay said in an e-mail.

    Travel sometimes proved expensive for Stursberg, while at other times he saved the CBC money while on the road.

    A two-night stay in April, 2006 at a hotel in New York cost $1,072.16. The reason for the trip was not provided in the CBC documents.

    Five nights in a hotel in London in February, 2007, added up to $3,755.26, part of which the CBC challenged with the airline because of flight delays. Total expenses filed for that trip, excluding airfare, were $5,130.72.

    On the other hand, when travelling to Vancouver twice in 2008, Stursberg stayed in private accommodation, for which, in both cases, he billed just $30 a night for four nights.

    Keay said Stursberg administers a budget of about $750 million and noted “we are keenly aware of the importance of being responsible with our resources.”

    He said CBC president Hubert Lacroix recently announced measures “to ensure that all spending is necessary and justifiable.”

  3. Anonymous
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 7:47 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Where would you get a meal for two for $23? That doesn’t come on a tray with a paper liner?

  4. Joe Clark
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 4:05 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sometimes I wrote short and sometimes I wrote long, comrade.

  5. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 2:17 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Anonymous said…


    I miss Joe Clark.

    Why’s that? For his many examples of brevity?

  6. Anonymous
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece


    I miss Joe Clark.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 9:56 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Happily Mr. Stursberg was able to spend the Christmas holiday with his mother, father and sister in Vancouver last year.

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