Gold-embossed business cards created for Clement, Hawn, against rules: documents


OTTAWA – At least two more key Conservatives got gold-embossed business cards, contrary to long-standing government rules against fancy stationery.

Tony Clement was given his gold cards shortly after being promoted to Treasury Board president in the May 2011 cabinet shuffle, following the election of a Conservative majority.

And colleague Laurie Hawn, an Edmonton MP appointed temporarily to a cabinet committee looking at cost-cutting, got his own set of gold-embossed cards at the same time.

The Arms of Canada on both sets of cards was highlighted in gold foil.

They joined John Baird, whose staff demanded the new foreign affairs minister receive a set of forbidden English-only cards that also violated the rules in several other ways, including having a gold-coloured coat of arms.

Baird’s unilingual gold cards were first reported by The Canadian Press, which also obtained documents on business cards for Clement and Hawn, after a request under the Access to Information Act.

Spokespersons for Clement and Hawn say the gold cards were “ordered in error,” and say both men wrote personal cheques to reimburse taxpayers after the mistake was discovered.

But neither spokesperson answered repeated requests about when the “error” was discovered, the dates of the personal cheques, and the amounts of the reimbursement, among other questions.

“The cards were ordered in error by a former staff member,” Clement spokeswoman Heather Domereckyj said in an email.

“The minister was unaware of this decision. Once the additional costs were brought to the minister’s attention, he immediately wrote a personal cheque to cover the cost.”

Hawn’s special assistant, Jordan Fraser, said: “Mr. Hawn was not aware of the error. Once he became aware of the error, he reimbursed the cost.”

Clement’s department, the Treasury Board, sets out the rules for all ministers’ stationery, which specify that Canada’s coat of arms on business cards must be in black. The only colour permitted is the red of a small Canadian flag above the Canada wordmark.

The rules date from 1994, when the Liberal government of Jean Chretien was starting to impose deficit-cutting austerity in the same way the current Conservative government is slashing jobs and programs to balance the books by 2015.

Baird has never acknowledged any “error” for his unilingual, gold-embossed cards, raising questions about a double-standard, since a fellow minister felt compelled to write a personal cheque to ensure government-wide rules — and taxpayers — were respected.

Baird has even joked about the issue in the House of Commons, and defends his unilingual cards by saying he also ordered a second set of bilingual cards that were always available for distribution.

Canada’s official-languages commissioner, Graham Fraser, issued a report in August slamming Baird for ignoring language policies, and demanding the English-only cards be dumped.

Fraser’s office, which rejected the argument there was no violation because other bilingual cards were also available, said last week the commissioner was still waiting to hear whether Baird will abide by the ruling. Earlier this year, the deputy minister of foreign affairs said Fraser should not even have launched an investigation.

A 2011 invoice for the bilingual Clement-Hawn cards refers to “gold foil business cards” for $715 plus 13 per cent HST, with the quantities blacked out. They were ordered by Mathew Nepssy, Clement’s office manager.

Nepssy ordered a second set of gold-foil cards in 2012 for the minister and Hawn at what appears to be the same price as for the 2011 order.

Hawn’s cards were current only until Sept. 12, 2012, when he was no longer a member of the Treasury Board committee identified on the gold business card. The committee oversaw a major cost-cutting exercise, hiring management consultant Deloitte Inc. on a $90,000-a-day contract.

About the same time Clement’s first order for gold cards was placed in 2011, one of his senior officials was warning Baird’s office against breaking the rules.

“The policy centre receives requests through ministers’ offices from time to time for variance on paper quality, paper colour, typesetting, ink colour, and inclusion on names or external logos,” Grant Johnson of Treasury Board’s federal identity program wrote in an email.

“We consistently advise against any practice that does not meet the Treasury Board standards.

“Over the past several decades, Treasury Board has revised these standards in line with government’s broader priorities — among the casualties were the costly and difficult practice of using gold foil or full colour reproductions of the Arms of Canada on ministerial stationery.”


Gold-embossed business cards created for Clement, Hawn, against rules: documents

  1. This really is nothing more than a “who cares” story.
    I donot care what your business card looks like and I suspect a lot of others are in the same boat.

    • So you don’t care about government waste? You must be a Harper Conservative.

      • Or he could be a Liberal. Remember their wasteful spending habits mainly on/for central Canada consumption?

        • LOL!
          Far more important things to worry about than this.

      • LOL!

    • Generally speaking, who cares is right; however it goes a long way to tell a little bit about the type of person who is simply too good for the same stuff everyone else has: hint — think $16 orange juice, and other entitlements. It’s a legit part of a narrative.

      • Oh, puhlease. The $16 orange juice. Yeah, and McWinnty blows through a couple of billion of eHealth, ORNGE and gas plants but that’s of no account.

        • Please try not to conflate Federal and Provincial politics – it’s not always about Ontario.

          • At the moment it most certainly is. There is nothing, I repeat nothing could scandalize me about the Feds right now compared to the waste in Ontario. It makes Adscam look paltry.

          • As this post is about federal waste it has nothing to do with Ontario, it is weird that your bring you local squabbles into play here.

            I give not a whit about Ontario as the systemic corruption at the
            national level is far more important to me than anything happening in Ont.

          • You are right. A loss of 3.1 billion, a con Job about the F-35s, over 300 million spent on ship plans that were available for hundred times less, Harper’s association with convicted criminal Carter and friend ship with Con-artist Porter, are not scandalous compared to the pittance that the Liberals has cost you. Sorry fella but adscam was less than half a billion (3.1 billion is 6 times bigger but who counts hey) compared to the Con job we’ve been forced to swallow. You are got your priorities right and your sense of financial responsibility as weLL. Cons conning!!!!

          • Who cares about Ontario. Honestly, I wish we could kick Ontario out of the country. Nothing but waste, corruption and crime coming out of that have-not province.

          • Last I heard they still have elections there – isn’t it up to Ontario voters to decide who is running the province?

          • Harper’s got you just where he wants you.

        • YOu must be incensed at Tim Hudak for tripping over himself to line up behind the plan to waste hundreds of million on the plan to close the plants for political reasons, even before the plan went overbudget.

          • As did Andrea Horwath but in their defense, I’m sure they would have backed away at the expense. They were not privileged to know the costs associated with closing the plants – the Liberals were.

          • That’s definitely the Horwath/Hudak line. We await the proof they didn’t know and the Liberals did. So far the most that has been shown is that one guy deleted his emails.

          • In fact i will go even farther, Even if the total costs turns out to be 1 billion, and Horwath and Hudak knew, they would have gladly paid it to try for those 5 seats.

  2. “The cards were ordered in error by a former staff member,”…..and the dog ate my homework.

    • Yes, Emily. I’m sure Cabinet ministers have absolutely no office staff or executive assistants whatsoever, and personally fill out the order forms for their business cards themselves.

      • Yes, staff always choose the gold embossed ones to order for their boss….they’re so impressed by shiny things.

      • But you expect Trudeau to read every email addressed to him marked Senate Reform? Seems like a double standard here.

        • You’re equating sexual assault with ordering the wrong type of business card?

          I certainly don’t expect Trudeau’s to have been the first set of eyes on that email. But there are a lot of Liberals who need to speak up over how long they’ve known that Colin Kenny was a sexual predator and did nothing.

      • So, you don’t believe that a boss ought to take responsibility for the actions of his staff? Yes, this is a relatively petty issue. It reminds me of Stock Day’s flub about water flowing south like Canadian talent: when the geographical error was pointed out he immediately blamed a staffer.

        For a government that rode into town on a horse of accountability, they seem awfully fond of blaming things on staff. (Remember Harper’s castigation of the Libs in the midst of the sponsorship scandal, where he RIGHTLY noted that even engendering a culture of corruption was something the leader had to ultimately be responsible for?).

        Also, for a “law and order” group, they seem to possess an unduly relative sense of rules and morality, one that excuses their own clan in every instance.

        Ya, it’s just stupid business cards this time. But Clement’s response echoes Harper’s defense of audit interference, hidfen emails, and bribery of a senator (or at least inappropriate payment, to use his characterization).

        I don’t know if you’ve ever been in charge of staff. I have, in multiple working contexts, and have always taken ultimate responsiblity for their actions. I don’t think I’m such a rare bird, in that respect. Heck, if one of my kids broke a neighbour’s window or stole a candy bar from a store, I’d consider myself to be fully accountable.

        • What does “take responsibility” mean in the context of mistakenly ordering the wrong business cards? What kind of responsibility does one need to take for such a heinous crime? Someone put the wrong type of business card on an order, and both repaid the extra cost. What other responsibility? Surely no one is suggesting a resignation is in order over this I hope???

          • Goodness no. But instead of the compulsion to blame staff, wouldin’t it be preferable – even for a petty thing – to have Clement (in this case) say something like: “I had no intention of breaking the rule. It was a small administratve decision in a busy office that we got wrong. I apologize, and assure you it won’t happen again.”

            I’ll bet that’s exactly the way you’d handle something like that.

            The Harper Conservative impulses to blame underlings, obfuscate, and confuse accountability with weakness is hardly something they invented. But boy oh boy, they’ve taken it to extremes previously unseen in a federal government.

      • We know for a fact that Baird personally demanded special cards.

        What reason is there to believe a staff member would request a variance without any direction from the minister?

  3. stevie, baird, clement exist in error. beware, that just visualizing those three can induce vomiting.

  4. Another faux scandal. How much did the gold business cards cost. Five hundred cards for $50?

    • $715 + 13% – or can’t you read?

      • Sorry, skipped over that part but still – $715? That’s chump change.

        • Please send me a cheque if you have that much money just cluttering your wallet up. That’s two weeks rent.

          • Chump change to the government not to me. Did you know there were 82 taxpayer-funded healthcare agencies on top of the Ontario Ministry of Health? And you are complaining about $715?

          • I don’t give a crap about Ontario, I don’t live there. i care about Alberta and Canada as I live there and $715 is a lot of money to me.

  5. It used to be said: the longer and more grand the national anthem, then the less important the country and the more medals on the uniforms, then the less effective the military.
    So an extrapolation of that is the more frills the MP think they are entitled too, the less competent/important they are. Clement, Hawn and Baird – yup that’s about right.

  6. It’s a small thing, but the guidelines are there for a good reason and for a public servant to casually violate them is poor conduct indeed.

  7. CP put more investigative work into this silly business card story than they did Colin Kenny’s alleged sexual harrassment/sexual assault of an employee.

    Way to go guys. Maybe one day if a Liberal is ever accused of murder you can put some effort into catching a cabinet minister jaywalking or something.

    • Again with the deflection
      Kenny’s being investigated and a report will be made.
      Clement. Hawn and Baird are just entitled to their entitlements and don’t expect to be called on it.

      What is it withe WATB on the right that they can’t differentiate between an act that is being subjected to due process and one that isn’t?

    • From silly Dingwall pack of gum to silly card business – harperian-era politics at its finest. Don’t you just love it? Media loves it that’s for sure. Ditto for release of doctored tapes (Grewal) and missing memos re Senate silliness. Silly, along with sex, has always sold. And what is good for the goose…

  8. Someone should come and pickup and pay for their gold and silver embossed flag toilet paper soon.

    After all it was a rush order, and It’s been ready and on the shelf for pickup for a whole month now.