99 stupid things the government spent your money on (IV)

A U2 concert, graffiti for hire, and an RV park

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We’ve previously brought you items 1-18, subsidies and infrastructure and 19-34, food and job creation, followed by 35-55, the environment, animals, and money for nothing. Here is a sample of questionable spending on culture and tourism. Check us out tomorrow to see more stupid things your government did with your money .

Canada’s finances may be the envy of the world, but the bar is awfully low these days. Whether it’s Ottawa, the provinces or municipalities, governments across the country face horrendous deficits. We must tighten our belts, say the politicians. Austerity and cutbacks are the order of the day.

Only, you wouldn’t know it looking at this list. What follows is but a slice of the silly, wasteful, craven and often outright stupid ways governments at all levels spent taxpayers’ money over the last year. To find our 99 items, Maclean’s scoured press releases and auditor generals’ reports, contacted watchdog groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and waded through news reports, looking for examples where the money was either spent or announced in 2011. We also included a handful of egregious instances of waste that only came to light in the past 12 months, even if the actual cash was doled out in previous years.

Not everyone will agree with all these items being on the list. Some will justify handouts to companies and sports teams as necessary to “promote economic activity,” or they’ll say a camping program for new immigrants was a nice thing to do. Sure, it would be great if we could afford everything, but at a time when government spending is under the knife, when services and jobs are being cut, it’s clear many of those with their hands on the public purse have yet to come to terms with Canada’s new fiscal reality.

CULTURE SHOCK — When spending is music to a politician’s ears

56 Tunnel vision: Calgary must spend $1.6 million on “public art” to go on the walls of a new traffic tunnel being built under the airport runway, simply because of a rule that says all projects must include an art component.

57 A dog-eat-dog world: It was revealed that the federal government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, gave more than $180,000 in loans and grants to a Sydney, N.S., concert promoter to bring Snoop Dogg to the city to perform in 2010.

58 Rock bottom: U2 isn’t just a rock band, it’s a billion-dollar, multinational corporation. But when Bono and crew swung through Montreal for a two-night show in July for their 360° tour (which incidentally earned them $740 million worldwide), the city subsidized the event by spending $450,000 to build a temporary stadium just for the show.

59 Graffiti for hire: Montreal budgets about $150,000 annually to pay for murals painted by graffiti artists around the city. Another $1 million is spent helping boroughs get rid of murals that were, um, painted for free.

60 Ottawa handed over more than $83,000 to promote a bluegrass festival in New Richmond, Que.

61 Even though Conservative MPs want to cut off taxpayer funding to the CBC, the Harper government gave $82,000 to support a radio service in Bonne Bay, Nfld.

62 CBC documents showed it spent at least $6.6 million celebrating its 75th birthday.

TOURISM — If you throw money at it, they will come

63 Thin ice: Ottawa’s National Capital Commission installed seven new ice shacks along the Rideau Canal for skaters to lace up in. Each shack cost $750,000. By comparison, the average house price in Ottawa is $360,000.

64 Yurt alors: Ottawa doled out $354,000 to build 19 yurts and teepees at a new glamping (glamour camping) park in Debiens, Que.

65 Howling mad: Ottawa gave $1.5 million to Parc Safari zoo in Hemmingford, Que., in part to build a “wolf observation tunnel.”

66 Time warped: The City of Hamilton spent $500,000 to recreate a tiered landscape design in Battlefield Park that dates back to the 1920s. To turn back the clock, city workers chopped down several trees in some places, and planted new trees in others.

67 Grounded: Calgary spent $800,000 to rebuild two Second World War aircraft that have sat disassembled in storage for decades.

68Get away: Ottawa spent $455,000 to build an RV park in Grand Marais, Man.

69 Toronto spent $50,000 on yet another plan to overhaul the city’s port lands, this one including a doomed proposal to build the world’s biggest Ferris wheel

70 a glut of conference centres in North America didn’t stop the feds from giving Thunder Bay $250,000 to plan for yet another in the northern Ontario city.

71 A federal agency coughed up $120,500 to improve a marina in Clarenville, Nfld., with just 40 slips

72 Another federal agency spent $1 million to modernize a municipal campground in Péribonka, Que., creating eight jobs—at $130,000 a pop.

73 Ottawa paid $160,000 to build four eco-tourism cabins in Gaspé, Que., at Chalets du bout du monde Inc., loosely translated as “the ends of the earth chalets.”