Outgoing mayors and bureaucrats receive gifts from the City of Ottawa Protocol Gift Bank

COVID-19 has been a spoiler for Ottawa city ceremonies, but the branch tasked with organizing official gatherings and welcoming dignitaries still had work to do selecting gifts and organizing small events.

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Ottawa property taxpayers have funded gifts for retiring city bureaucrats and parting gifts for mayors of other municipalities.

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They included city-branded watches, each worth $216.75 given to outgoing general managers John Manconi and Anthony Di Monte and wool blankets worth $56.50 each given to former Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin. and former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, according to the 2021 spending summary from the Ottawa City Protocol Branch.

COVID-19 has been a spoiler for Ottawa city ceremonies for the past two years, but the branch tasked with organizing official gatherings and welcoming dignitaries still had work to do selecting gifts and organizing small events.

For example, the protocol branch also paid for “thank you” events for the Manconi and Di Monte recalls last year, costing $2,220.83 and $2,302.93, respectively.

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The city was unable to answer questions Friday about how decisions were made to give gifts to city politicians outside of Ottawa and to retiring high-level bureaucrats. While the mayor often gives gifts to multiple people, the city was unable to clarify whether the mayor’s office directed or approved any protocol office spending.

The protocol office is responsible for planning key to the city ceremonies, Order of Ottawa ceremonies, and other official recognition events.

However, the number of events fell during the pandemic, compared to the numbers of previous years.

The total cost of 17 events in 2021 was $81,133.86, with two Order of Ottawa ceremonies accounting for a large portion of that bill. The city held an event for the 2020 prize winners on November 17 ($17,509.70), and the 2021 prize winners celebrated on November 18 ($18,981.34).

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Events canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19 meant $300,000 was kept in city coffers, according to information provided with the 2022 budget.

As the nation’s capital, the work of the Ottawa City Council protocol office regularly includes arranging courtesy calls between the mayor and dignitaries wishing to meet with the chief city official, especially ambassadors and other high-ranking foreign diplomats. range. During the pandemic, many of those courtesy calls were virtual.

When it comes to gifts, the city often hands out items to residents celebrating their 100th birthday, official visitors such as ambassadors, who often receive $50 worth of books about Ottawa, charity events and guest speakers at events.

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Gift giving slowed during the first two years of COVID-19.

In 2021, the protocol branch gave out 87 gifts with a total value of $4,878.75. In 2020, the branch gave out 94 gifts worth $4,181.99.

Compare those numbers to 2019, when the branch gave away 342 items worth $10,165.54, or 2018, when there were 729 gifts worth $12,784.35.

Per city protocol procedures, there are three levels of gifts that help staff decide what recipients receive. The highest level, Level 3, would be suitable for “visits and meetings with the highest ranking officials” and would require donations of between $120 and $289.

In the gift bank, those items would include framed lithographs, original art by local artists, and clocks bearing the city’s coat of arms.

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Watch recipients Manconi and Di Monte filled key roles late in their careers, with Manconi overseeing LRT, the largest infrastructure project in Ottawa history, and Di Monte leading the COVID-19 vaccination task force as head of community and protection services.

Former integrity commissioner Robert Marleau also received a parting gift from the gift bank last year: a fleece blanket.

Local sports heroes also appeared on the gift list.

Vanessa Gilles, a member of the national soccer team, displays her 2021 Olympic gold medal and a proclamation from the City of Ottawa for Vanessa Gilles Day on September 14, 2021.
Vanessa Gilles, a member of the national soccer team, displays her 2021 Olympic gold medal and a proclamation from the City of Ottawa for Vanessa Gilles Day on September 14, 2021. Photo by Errol McGihon /post media

Olympic soccer gold medalist Vanessa Gilles received a pewter vase valued at $130, and Grand Slam tennis champion Gaby Dabrowski received a hollow maple box valued at $121 after winning a doubles title at the National Bank Open. The city hosted events for each of the champions at a cost of just over $1,100 each, according to the expense report.

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The protocol office oversees the inventory of gifts, which has included travel mugs, cufflinks, wallets and card holders. Per City procedures, the total value of all items in the gift inventory cannot exceed $75,000.

The city began proactively publishing expenses incurred by the protocol office about nine years ago as part of a council-backed package of accountability initiatives.

The annual protocol budget is a tiny fraction of the overall budget, with the council allowing about $1.3 million in spending for the protocol branch in 2022.

There has been a return of key to the city ceremonies in 2022, making up for events delayed by COVID-19. The Ottawa Citizen received the key to the city on June 16, 2022, in a ceremony organized by the protocol office. On Friday, the city was unable to provide the cost of that ceremony.

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