OTTAWA – Who knew census-takers could behave like rock stars?
Broken furniture. Stained carpets. Marker-smeared bed sheets and linens. Damaged wallpaper.
It may sound like something out of an old Led Zeppelin biography, but newly released documents show one enumerator’s wild romp left Statistics Canada with a hefty bill for a trashed hotel room.
The government first reported the payment last fall in its annual Public Accounts documents. But now there’s new photographic proof that census-takers know how to party.
Eight of them rolled into Brantford, Ont., in July 2011 and checked into the Hampton Inn and Suites. They were enumerators from the East Coast, conscripted to help with census work on the Six Nations reserve.
Two of the workers were related, according to a briefing note. Why that relationship is significant is not spelled out in the documents.
Much of what happened over the next 11 days is unclear. Statistics Canada blacked out key details in documents released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
What is clear is that the trail of destruction left behind was a pricey one.
A broken luggage bench cost $800. It cost another $195 for a broken luggage rack, $695 for a broken chair and $495 for other damaged furniture.
Damage to the wallpaper cost $1,500 and the ruined duvet cover and linens were $1,150.
Throw in steam cleaning for the carpets and taxes and the total bill for the damages came to nearly $6,000. Statistics Canada settled with the hotel for $4,000.
Photos of the damage show linens with a note about blue marker on the king-sized sheets. Other photos catalogue damages to the furniture and wallpaper.
The unidentified census-taker told Statistics Canada officials she felt bad about the “mess.”
“I knew about the chair and the nail polish,” the worker wrote in a statement.
“I asked them before I left if anything needed to be settled (and) they said ‘no.’ As for the mess, I would have cleaned it up if they gave me Pledge and a vacuum, left the maids $40 tip.”
Several lines of her statement are redacted. She admitted to breaking the chair.
“As for the mess, I wish I had the time to clean up more before I left,” she wrote, “but we were rushing trying to get out of the room and the car packed before 11.”
Census-takers are hired on temporary contracts. Marc Hamel, director general of Statistics Canada’s census management office, said the enumerator was brought in to work at the Six Nations reserve from one of the Atlantic provinces because of her aboriginal background.
“In this case, it would have been because it’s preferable to have people who have aboriginal ancestry, or are aboriginal themselves, to do the enumeration on this reserve,” Hamel said in an interview. “So that was the case here.”
It’s rare census-takers cause so much damage, he added.
“It is very unusual. We hire more than 30,000 staff to complete the census collection. Incidents are very rare. They will occur from time-to-time. I mean, you hire that many people, there will be all kinds of small events.
“But claims for damages to property or so on are rare occurrences.”
The census-taker who trashed the hotel room was “very remorseful,” Hamel said. As far as he can tell, the agency did not re-hire her once her contract ended.
The damage likely resulted from some sort of party. Hamel said he was not aware of any violent incidents in the room.
One document shows the agency fretted about the incident making news once the payment appeared in the Public Accounts.
“Hopefully you will understand that these expenses are very sensitive and may be scrutinized by the public,” an official wrote to someone with a blacked-out email address.
The documents show it took several months before the government reimbursed the hotel for the damages.
Danny Bawa, the hotel’s general manager, said he didn’t want to talk about the incident.
“I have already spent a lot of time on this, which is not worth (it) at all,” he wrote in an email.
“Hope you understand I have work to do.”