COVID-19 has been a headache for City of Ottawa ceremonies, but the management responsible for organizing official gatherings and welcoming dignitaries still had work to do to select gifts and organize small events.

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Ottawa property taxpayers funded gifts to retiring municipal bureaucrats and farewell gifts to mayors of other municipalities.

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They included city-branded clocks worth $216.75 each 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 City of Ottawa Protocol Branch’s 2021 Expenditure Summary.

COVID-19 has been a headache for City of Ottawa ceremonies over the past two years, but management responsible for organizing official gatherings and welcoming dignitaries still had work to do to select gifts and organize small events.

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

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The city was unable Friday to answer questions about how decisions were made to give gifts to municipal politicians outside Ottawa and senior retiring civil servants. While gifts are often presented by the mayor to various individuals, the city could not clarify whether the mayor’s office directed or approved expenses for the office of protocol.

The Office of Protocol is responsible for planning Keys to the City ceremonies, Order of Ottawa ceremonies and other official recognition events.

The number of events, however, has been reduced during the pandemic, compared to previous years’ figures.

The total cost for 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 award winners on November 17 ($17,509.70) and the 2021 award winners were celebrated on November 18 ($18,981.34).

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

Since this is the nation’s capital, the job of the protocol office at Ottawa City Hall is to regularly arrange courtesy calls between the mayor and dignitaries who wish to meet with the highest municipal official, particularly ambassadors and other high-ranking foreign diplomats. During the pandemic, many of these courtesy calls were virtual.

As for gifts, the city typically distributes items to residents celebrating their 100th birthday, official visitors — like ambassadors, who often receive books about Ottawa worth $50 — charity events and speakers. guests.

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Gift distribution slowed in the first two years of COVID-19.

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

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

According to the city’s protocol procedures, there are three levels of gifts that help staff decide what recipients will receive. The highest tier, Tier 3, would be suitable for “visits and meetings with the highest officials” and would call for gifts worth between $120 and $289.

In the gift bank, these items would include framed lithographs, original artwork by local artists, and clocks with the city’s coat of arms.

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Clock recipients Manconi and Di Monte held key positions late in their careers, with Manconi overseeing the LRT, the largest infrastructure project in Ottawa’s history, and Di Monte leading the task force on COVID-19 vaccination as Chief of Community and Protective Services.

Former Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau also received a parting gift from the Gift Bank last year: a woolen blanket.

Local sports heroes were also on the gift list.

National soccer team member Vanessa Gilles shows off her 2021 Olympic gold medal and a proclamation from the City of Ottawa for Vanessa Gilles Day on September 14, 2021.
National soccer team member Vanessa Gilles shows off 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 /Postmedia

Olympic soccer gold medalist Vanessa Gilles received a pewter vase worth $130, and Grand Slam tennis champion Gaby Dabrowski received a hollow maple box worth $121 after won 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 Office of Protocol oversees gift inventory, which includes travel mugs, cufflinks, wallets, and business card holders. According to city procedures, the total value of all gift inventory items cannot exceed $75,000.

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

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

There has been a return of Key to the City ceremonies in 2022, compensating for events delayed by COVID-19. The Ottawa Citizen received the key to the city on June 16, 2022 in a ceremony hosted by the Office of Protocol. On Friday, the city was unable to provide the cost of this ceremony.

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