Bertram takes criticism for office renovations

Wayne Thibodeau
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Communities and Cultural Affairs Minister Carolyn Bertram came under fire Thursday for spending a large sum of taxpayers' money to renovate her office.
During question period Thursday, Opposition MLA Mike Currie accused Bertram of lavish overspending with a recent $225,000 expenditure to fix up her office, located in the Shaw Building in Charlottetown.
"I'm just wondering if you're prepared to stand up now and admit that you went way overboard on this time of recession and these expenditures on your office," Currie said.
Bertram denied Currie's accusation that she hired an interior decorator and overspent on her office facelift. She said the renovations were necessary due to the fact her department had before been split, since many department offices had been housed alongside the Justice Department.
"We were under the legal service section of attorney general, we were under lock and key basically, and we were away from our staff," Bertram said. "Now we are all on the north wing. I don't know why the honourable member is talking about this lavish - he should come down and take a look at what has actually happened."
The Transportation and Public Works Department, which is responsible for all government buildings, paid for about $69,000 of the renovations, Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley told The Guardian Wednesday. The remaining $156,000 was paid out of Bertram's department budget.
Later Thursday night, Opposition MLA Jim Bagnall questioned Bertram further on the issue, asking about the murals and paintings now hanging on her walls. He also asked about the wall detailing and the furniture.
Bertram responded that she did not buy new furniture. But she did admit to buying paintings, including one mural for $3,500. But she said this was done to support local artists.

"There are other pieces, but they are all Island art. We are supporting our Island artists."
But Currie believes spending so much on paintings and office renovations at a time when government is asking departments to tighten their belts is a waste of money.
"I think when Islanders see a minister with that kind of extravagance, surrounding herself with comforts when some people had a tough time paying their light bills this winter and a tough time filling their oil tanks, they see that the priorities of this government are not to look out for hardworking Islanders," Currie said.
"They're making sure that the comforts of cabinet ministers are well looked after."

Organizations: Justice Department, Public Works Department

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Let's renovate everything
    June 21, 2010 - 20:39

    Let's renovate some of those schools that are closing or even some of the schools that aren't closing. Renovate all those dingy government offices. And get going with an art purchasing plan with all government buildings getting five or six nice new pieces. No extravagance at all--just sound deficit-building practices growing a good healthy debt-load. Artists and contractors will get lots of money and go buy jeans and other retail goodies, and government employees will be cheerier with cool art everywhere. Sounds like a plan to me.

  • wayne
    June 21, 2010 - 20:38

    Thank all you people that voted her in.maybe next time you will remember shes know better then the rest of them.

  • Private Citizen
    June 21, 2010 - 20:37

    Buy your own damm pen. You get paid enough.

    No body buy pens for me.

  • YoungLiberal
    June 21, 2010 - 20:35

    Ad Hominem?

    You mean the Steven Harper method?

  • Posh Spice
    June 21, 2010 - 20:34

    Can we at least get a look at the $3500 painting and some of the other fine furnishings in the luxury suite?

  • Not Bad
    June 21, 2010 - 20:33

    I'd like a 5000 square foot office.

    Why does she need a 5000 squar foot office. Mine is 60 square feet and I work fine.

  • pat
    June 21, 2010 - 20:32

    I like to know what happens to the art when the minister is out of politics? Does she get to take it home with her?

  • scott
    June 21, 2010 - 20:32

    kind of like the limo rides the former gov't took and didnt pay for huh mr currie?

  • In the ditch
    June 21, 2010 - 20:31

    Holy Toledo, that money could have been put to a way better use. Aids PEI or any other charity, roads, schooling, theres a long list of people needing a hand! No wonder this particular party cannot seem to relate to Joe and Josie Average!

  • don
    June 21, 2010 - 20:30

    Bertram how dare you spend $225,000 on your office how many people would that money have helped ? hire a doctor or more paramedic's to me you are taking money from the kids mouths come next election im sure the people will remember your waste of our money not your money there is so many thing that im sure the people would like to say but the papers will not print it. will you answer this maybe the homeless should come to your home or office to stay as it is there money u have wasted. what a disgrace this lib gov is.

  • Joe the
    June 21, 2010 - 20:30

    What do you people expect for a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of demolition and construction. Your talking like anywhere from $45 a sq/ft and up for commercial work like this. Call in some skilled tradespeople sometime and pay them for a few hours work if you don't believe me, see how much that costs. By the look of that office it is over 5000 sq/ft and I would have to say judging by the picture they got good value for the price. Why isn't Mike Currie out on bail anyway, instead of wasting time and tax dollars with such frivolous and vexatious comments?

  • Hmmmm!
    June 21, 2010 - 20:29

    No, I think they are only attacking half of them.

  • Amazed
    June 21, 2010 - 20:26

    No, I am not saying that everyone who questions this is minimum wage and illiterate.

    I am saying.

    1) Although PEI is not well off, it isn't poor. Not at poor at people tend to present it as.
    2) There are a lot of people out there who have never gotten any education past high school.
    3) There are a lot of people who have functional literacy problems.
    4) There are people leaving the province because employers don't believe that education is worth anything here, leading to more of 2.
    5) Businesses who are looking for some place to locate are avoiding us, and because of their impression of the poulation and not the government.
    6)If we work on 2 and 3, perhaps we could improve the economy and reduce the number of people who are poor and it not wait for the government to do anything.
    7) There is a difference between the need to do work on 2/3rd of a floor of a building , and beautifing a single office.
    8) If you pay attention to Joe the Carpenter, or have actually paid for any renovations, you'd realize that this wasn't massively overpaid for what was done.
    9) The money didn't go into her pockets. The money went into the pockets of construction workers, and likely after that into retailer's pockets.
    10) I don't think from the posts that show up in the Guardian that the proper rules of rhetoric are foremost on the minds of most posters.

    That is my arguent.

  • arrogance has no bounds
    June 21, 2010 - 20:23

    it is called entitlement, the spoiled children running our province are playing house, does it really surprise anyone

  • Mike tear the face
    June 21, 2010 - 20:22

    Mike hates your face Currie can calculate construction costs probably about as well as he can calculate the personal and political cost of his fabulous facial fiasco from the other day. Maybe Mikes new taxpayer funded office will have padded walls, on unit 9.

  • lame brain
    June 21, 2010 - 20:22

    We must follow - It is now May 19th. We didn't have to wait long for those new instructions. Go directly to your electronic store and pay the new fee for disposal before you even get the item home. Likely won't have to wonder long how this new money will be used lol

  • So..hey there...Totally
    June 21, 2010 - 20:19

    You are saying that anyone who questions this must be a minimum-wage illiterate. Thats called ad hominem attack and isnt really allowed in rational discussions. And, it would be prospective employers not perspective employers.

    What most of the posters are questioning is why such a renovation would take place during these times, especially as part of an $83Million deficitone which will no doubt balloon as the year progresses. Its further proof the members of this government feel they are somehow separate from their fellow Islanders. Percentage wise, this renovation and the other arrogant acts that have led to this horrendous deficit and general mismanagement of the Island are paid for by minimum wage earners, single parent families, and those who find it difficult to pay their light bill while meeting other family needs.

    Perhaps some artist can donate a mural depicting the life of the average Islander to the minister. It may not be as pretty to look at though.

  • Jill
    June 21, 2010 - 20:18

    I would certainly hope that the minister of Cultural and Community affairs would spend some of the renovation budget to support Island artists, as that is part of its mandate. You do realize that the Island has a very rich cultural and artistic heritage? It should be encouraged and supported whenever possible. Why is this news again?

  • Island Protest
    June 21, 2010 - 20:15

    This is rediculous.

    Ok, from here on on if anyone needs pens, or paper, or other office supplies go to your nearest government office or school and demand them. It's your right. You paid for them.

    You've paid for stuff that doesn't benefit you, not lets start getting something in return for a change.

  • To Jill PEI !
    June 21, 2010 - 20:13

    If you have to ask why this is news you must be either a Politician, A Doctor, A Lawyer or own one of the Chosen Island Corporations!

    Your certainly not a Middle Class Islander who is getting the shaft at every turn or YOU'D KNOW WHY IT'S NEWS! But oh, Must be nice to be YOU!

    As far as your, Cultural and Community affairs are concerned, call Gail Shea and she if she might allocate a portion of the 60 mil or more she sank into Heritage and Culture to support your Frivolous Dilemma!

  • Selfless Ministers
    June 21, 2010 - 20:08

    If the government members keep on supporting local artists and fisherman with my tax dollars theyll soon have to pay me in some fashion. If you want to help local artists give a tax break to those who buy art. Buying murals for your wall is notno matter how you try to spin itan act for the public good. Personally, Id rather buy and art and lobster myselfto bad Im too &^%^&% overtaxed to do so

  • Islander
    June 21, 2010 - 20:05

    Shame on Mr Currie Who do think did this work ? mmmm mabe tha other party think,s she did it her self , i think it,s just great she got some people to work get some cash on the go , just wish ore people like some work done around and keep trade,s people going so we get to spend our money to keep our house hold going ,,,Mike i,d like to what your going to fix up this yr ? keep out islander,s working ,, Thank,s

  • LET THEM
    June 21, 2010 - 20:05

    Heres what every politican should think before they waste money.
    Picture the total cost of what you are about to spend then divide that by the minimum wage and then carefully look at the results. Then say to yourself ,this is how many hours someone on the minimum wage would have to work to afford this. Is it worth it?
    But it appears to be a different message now being sent. The message may be more like LET THEM EAT CAKE!

  • Gerry
    June 21, 2010 - 20:03

    I often wonder if prior to becoming self-indulgent, pompous politicians if in real life were they were actually concerned about doing what is best for everyone. Some how having the public's (tax payers') confidence and respect, no longer matters. The Liberals are answerable to no one as they can justify everything. I believe it is important to vote; therefore, the NDP will definitely be my choice the next time.

  • Former WPer
    June 21, 2010 - 19:59

    If you are talking about people coming to PEI to see if it is a good place to set up shop, they would be prospective as they would be looking at the prospects that PEI actually has the skills that hey are looking for.

    I think the agrument is no, many of those with any skills have been chased away because they didn't want to work for minimum wage.

    If the median income is about $41,000 then that means half the popluation makes more than that. Not me, but that is different than what you usually hear where the island is a big slum with a few fat cats in government as the only people who can afford to go to Tim's AND feed their kids.

    As for the education piece, I can see that. I've known a lot of people who wouldn't get an education if they could afford it because unless they are applying for a job and they require a certain education for it, they don't see what the point of learning anything is. I know a lot of people will be insulted by such a statement, but most of my post-secondary educational career I had to defend why. Unless you could say the law says you need to pass this court to become an accountant (for example) it was seen as getting an education to prove you were better than those who didn't. the concept of getting an education, without being forced to, was a completely foreign concept.

  • Gov employee
    June 21, 2010 - 19:58

    I'm still waiting for permission to get a new pen folks.

    Do we need to have a referendum, or are you going to picket my home to get reimbursed for it?

  • Unreal....
    June 21, 2010 - 19:57

    Personally, I would have liked to have seen that $69,000 that was spent from Transportation and Public Works on Island ROADS to benefit most Islanders...not Minister Bertram's office space!!

  • JD
    June 21, 2010 - 19:56

    Bertram is PEI's version of Adrienne Clarkson when she was Governor General.

    Clarkson spent $112,000 on a Rug and claimed she was supporting a struggling artist.

    I wonder what the connection between the artist that Bertram felt like spending $3500 on and the Minister is?

    I wonder if Bertram would feel like giving $3500 to a family who is struggling to make ends meet?

    Not to mention there is a Provincial Art Bank that is full of art that is already owned by the province.

    Notice Bertram didn;t appear on Compass last night she said one of her peons.

    She can spend it but can't defend it.

  • we must follow what they
    June 21, 2010 - 19:55

    Stop asking questions about the money that is in the news. All anyone wants to ask about is tax dollars and PNP dollars. So what if many millions of dollars appear to be misused? Stop your whining and await your new instructions.

  • IsBertramAsExcellent&
    June 21, 2010 - 19:54

    If a good chunk of this quarter million dollar bill is for Carolyn Bertram's aesthetic preferences then she has added fuel to the fire.

    The Ghiz Gang is already looking superior minded, big feeling, greedy and unconcerned about the PEI public thinks about what they take for themselves and spend on themselves.

    Bertram (who once showed novelty and promise) has just moved a little closer to to the center of the cross hairs with Rob Ghiz.
    '
    Did this money really have to be blown this way?

  • LOL
    June 21, 2010 - 19:52

    Let he without debt cast the first stone.

    Canadians carry more debt per capita, for things they don't need, than almost anyone wlse in the world. Moral indignation over paying some construction workers to fix up some government offices being portrayed as government extravegance, by people who think it is the government's responsibility to find them jobs is quite funny.

    Please continue. I need a good laugh. :-)

  • Totally Amazed
    June 21, 2010 - 19:51

    The median wage on PEI is about $41,500, which means that half the population makes more than that. (There are different kinds of average, not just the add up the numbers and divide by the total kind)

    To read that you'd think it was only the odd person who makes above minimum wage. Joe is right. Skilled people charge for their work. Which is why skilled people aren't valued on PEI, because employers say that havng skilled people on staff drive up costs. which is why they leave and why they can't help the economy.

    Considering half the population have never gone past high school, and half the population make more than $41,500 I will let you draw your own conclusion.

    It's almost like people who make a decent living have better things to do than to build up straw men so they can complain without having to worry about the facts getting in the way.

    Get a friggen education, then whine about there not being jobs. Because one of the reasons that there are no jobs is that perspective employers won't come here because we aren't skilled enough and all they hear is the whining.

    And in the 21st Century, half the population with nothing past high school (if they even finished, 10% drop out rate. Used to be much higher and considering an aging population one can infer a lot of people who never got grade 12) is a poor showing considering a lot of farmers out there have bachelor and masters degrees in Agriculture and Agronomy.

  • lame brain
    June 21, 2010 - 19:45

    You want to help struggling artists and other islanders - have the work done in your own home and pay for it with your own dam cash.

  • Spud Gal
    June 21, 2010 - 19:45

    OH BUT - WAIT FOLKS ! Maybe you missed this: Bertram responded that she did not buy new furniture But she did admit to buying paintings, to support local artists. BUT

    READ FURTHER: THERE ARE OTHER PIECES!!!!!!
    There are other pieces, but they are all Island art.

    SO $3,500 just increased to ??????? How much did the OTHER PIECES COST US? OH BUT the EXPENSE can be JUSTIFIED coz it was ISLAND ART!!!!

    I'd love to have a Piece of Island Art in my Family Room to ADMIRE EVERY DAY!
    Could the Minister Buy Me One? As a result of paying TEN TIMES the COST of this Island Art in TAXES and Maritime Electric's RIGHT OFF THE WALL ELECTRIC BILLS I can't afford such LUXURIES! DOG FOOD isn't even an option anymore as IT TOO WENT UP IN PRICE!

    I THINK IT'S ONLY FITTING THAT ISLANDERS SHOULD ORGANIZE AN OFFICE WARMING PARTY for the MINISTER! (One way of seeing how all our tax dollars were spent!)

    Another AID added to STAFF COMPLEMENT for a TOTAL OF MILLIONS PER YR, ISLAND ART WORKS AND RENOS $225,000. THOU (that's been accounted for!) TO ACQUIRE a NEW DEPT's FEEL GOOD HOMEY ATMOSPHERE AT THE OFFICE! AND WHO KNOWS How Much???? Before the PNP Fiasco is Finished!!!!

    IN A WORD MADAM MINISTER - DISGUSTING !

  • no
    June 21, 2010 - 19:42

    this is utterly ridiculas...taxpayers money being used for extravgance like a 3500 hundred dollar mural...and the total cost for bertems office is ohhh i dont even have words for it...some people could build a nice home for that cost...ridiculas...100's of islander every week getting disconnect notices for their lights and this money been wasted..i am irate.

  • Kudos to Margaret!
    June 21, 2010 - 19:41

    Thank you Margaret. Couldn't have said it better myself! I guess we both probably know all our comments will surely fall on this Goverment's deaf ears. But we have to keep trying, we don't have any other options! Maybe if we're lucky by some miracle this Goverment's term will be cut short before our Island goes into Bankruptcy due to their abundance of pet projects for their own selfish benefits!

  • To Former WPer
    June 21, 2010 - 19:41

    You value an education, a difficult thing to find on the Island. Elsewhere they call it 'thinking outside the box'. They mean being able to think, rather than being capable of following rules.

  • Margaret
    June 21, 2010 - 19:39

    I honestly am now at a lost of words for this so-called Government. Hard working Islanders trying as best they can to make ends meet, stressed to the limit over how they are going to keep up with their bills, paying for medication, groceries, just basic day to day living and the Government could care less!! They are living their lives in luxury. I don't like to wish bad upon people but I do hope that one day, each and every member of this Government is unfortunate enough to live, for a week, like the average Islander does, then maybe they will hang their heads in shame as they should, at how we trusted them to look out for us, but instead they only worry about themselves and their family. Sad reality....I truely can't wait to get these gold diggers out of office. Surely, there is one honest person out there, somewhere that will step up to the plate next election, that knows exactly what the middle and low class Islanders go through and takes over as a leader with an actual heart.

  • Give your head a good
    June 21, 2010 - 19:37

    The buildings are more than 30 years old. They need periodic renovations. just because this was the section that needed it this time doesn'tmean that it was just some frivolous vanity thing.

  • chatty
    June 21, 2010 - 19:35

    why all the fuss about the liberal ministers now its nothing more than what we tax payers went threw with the greedy binns goverment for 10 years time to get rid of the two self serving partys or have maritime union this small island dont need this place for the rich to play house at the expence of the poor or are we just going to let them think we dont no what their up to

  • karen
    June 21, 2010 - 19:35

    Okay I'm all for supporting local artists, but $3500 for a mural??? That is a years worth of car payments for me - and I use my car! Who gets to see this lovely mural besides the honourable minister and her wackies? I also watched the news last night- pretty nice plasma tv mounted on the conference room wall too! I'm glad minister Bertram doesn't do my home budgeting.