Outgoing Canadian film czar in expenses query

Director of taxpayers federation rebukes Wayne Clarkson

TORONTO -- The Canadian government has begun the search for its next film czar just as outgoing Telefilm Canada executive director Wayne Clarkson faces taxpayer criticism over his travel expense claims.

Clarkson left the Toronto headquarters of Telefilm Canada, Ottawa's film financier, on Jan. 15, at the end of his five-year term.

The federal agency's board of directors in a statement said it will assume Clarkson's duties until his successor is named.

But Kevin Gaudet, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, criticized Clarkson for flying business class and staying in top-drawer hotels while attending foreign festivals and executive retreats.

"Mr Clarkson lived the life of Keifer Sutherland on taxpayer dollars," Gaudet said, taking particular exception to one expense claim for $14,260 from the Telefilm Canada boss to attend the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

"We'd like to see Jack Bauer open a can of whoop ass on this guy," he added.

A spokesperson for Telefilm Canada defended Clarkson's travel expenses, indicating they complied with federal government guidelines, including one that allows top bureaucrats to sit in business class when they fly more than 850 kilometers.

That defense didn't satisfy the CTF's Gaudet, who said the Canadian government had created "a class of culturalcrats who don't produce, but instead spend a lot of cash living the high life on taxpayer expense."

During his five-year run, Clarkson oversaw a slide in the overall market share for Canadian film from 5.3% in 2005 to 2.9% last year (HR, October 30/09).