Wednesday, June 9, 1999

Brian Laghi
Parliamentary Bureau

Reform's watchdogs attack NFB films

Report goes after spending on movies about bed's evolution, lesbian life, rats in Toronto's sewers

OTTAWA — As if Bubbles Galore wasn't enough. Now the National Film Board's whole racy catalogue has been exposed by the Reform Party, including a flick about the evolution of the bed.

The party's spending watchdogs peeped into the federal books to find that the NFB has spent money on a film about lesbians and on another about the history of the bed, two films they say rival Bubbles, a film starring porn actress Nina Hartley, in the sweepstakes for questionable government expenditures.

"Save me from the idiocy of the National Film Board," said John Williams, Reform critic of the Treasury Board, in unveiling his latest report on Ottawa's spending habits yesterday.

"Where there is no accountability, there is waste and a complete lack of appreciation that the money they spend has been taken by taxation out of the pockets of decent, hard-working Canadians who, by and large, think this is trash."

The films are listed in Mr. Williams's Waste Report, a periodic chronicle of questionable government spending. The amounts were obtained through access-to-information requests.

Mr. Williams quipped in his report that the film about beds could have been livened up by describing what they are used for. For the record, Bed cost the NFB $249,007. Stolen Moments, a film on lesbian history and contemporary lesbian life, cost the board $40,526.

The news of the funds follows revelations that the Canada Council used $55,000 to pay for Bubbles Galore, which won the best-film award at the Freakzone International Festival of Trash Cinema in France.

Mr. Williams and his researchers also found a number of other films they believe are questionable. Strange Invaders, a portrayal of new parents who feel blessed until they realize the child is from outer space, cost the board $71,135. Rats, an exploration of the vermin in Toronto sewers, cost $140,077.

Mr. Williams also took issue with the financing of a film about the life of Maude Barlow, chairwoman of the 100,000-member Council of Canadians. Democracy à la Maude cost the NFB $228,336. He said Ms. Barlow has a "political agenda" and wondered why taxpayers are spending money to promote it. Mr. Williams said he has not seen any of the films mentioned.

He said that he doesn't believe the NFB should be dismantled, but that there should be tighter criteria to ensure that the choices reflect popular tastes. He noted that Bed cost the NFB more than it spent on a documentary of Vimy Ridge, a First World War battle in which Canadians figured significantly.

Other highlights in the report include $5-million for a bilingual Canadian dictionary and $83,000 that Justice Minister Anne McLellan's office paid for former Liberal MP Georgette Sheridan to act as her assistant for three months.

Mr. Williams reported that the taxpayers did win one battle: The parliamentary barber shop has been given the snip. The barber and hairdresser services on Parliament Hill were shut down on April 1, 1999, saving taxpayers $52,880, the report says.

"I'm surprised the NFB didn't make a movie called Toilet," Mr. Williams said in his news release. "A delightful look at how they can dream up exotic ways to flush taxpayers' money down the sewer."

An NFB spokeswoman said the board's role is to fund and make films of interest to Canadians.

Lyette Doré could not comment on the content of Bed or Stolen Moments, saying she hadn't seen them. However, the board does not shy away from controversial matters, she said.

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Created: June 13, 1999
Last modified: January 21, 2001
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