Opposition yelps about Chinese-made Ontario flags
TORONTO - A flag flap was flying in Ontario on Thursday after the opposition parties discovered the legislature has started buying its provincial flags from China.
Veteran New Democrat Peter Kormos said like many members of the legislature, he hands out Ontario flags on a regular basis to groups such as the boy scouts, girl guides and various community organizations.
Members of the legislature each have a $1,000 annual budget for Ontario lapel pins and flags, which they order through the government's procurement office, as they do with most office supplies.
Kormos was fuming after learning the procurement office had stopped buying Ontario flags from a Toronto company and outsourced them to China, apparently to save money.
"This is shameful. It's embarrassing. It's pathetic. It's rude," Kormos shouted. "I have no possible way of explaining how frustrating and angry it is for me to discover this."
Kormos said there is no way he will give out Ontario flags bearing a "made in China" label in his Welland riding after so many workers in the province have lost jobs.
"I would have this flag thrown in my face," he said. "It would be an insult for me to give this flag to any community group, and it would be an insult for any other MPP to deliver the same flag."
Speaker Steve Peters said the government chose a new vendor that sells flags made in Canada as well as China.
The flags used at the legislature are Canadian-made, said Peters, who agreed he would raise the issue with the legislative committee that oversees spending.
"I will, on behalf of the legislature, take this back both to the Board of Internal Economy and our senior managers to look at the procurement policies for the legislature." he said.
The Progressive Conservatives said buying Chinese-made flags is a bad move, especially when Ontario faces such dire economic circumstances.
"I think it's another example of a poorly thought-out government program," said Conservative Ted Chudleigh, whose family is famous for its apple pies.
"Of all items, to have a flag that is foreign-made -- if you're a Chudleigh it's like buying a foreign apple. It's just not done."
Peters said members of the legislature don't have to use the procurement office for their flags, and both Kormos and Chudleigh vowed to buy the flags they give to constituents from an Ontario manufacturer.
The flags, measuring roughly 90 centimetres by 1.8 metres (three feet by six feet), are a variation on Canada's old Red Ensign, with the Union Jack in the upper left corner and the Ontario coat of arms in a red field. They cost $13 each when bought from the Chinese company, and about $18 when made in the province.
Kormos said the Chinese-made Ontario flags are of lower quality than the ones made by Flying Colours International of Toronto, which the legislature had used for the previous 12 years.
"New Democrats have been crying out for `buy Ontario' policies, and this is just a perfect example of how jobs are being put at risk here in Ontario by an outright foolish policy," he said.
"It symbolizes an absolute disdain for so many Ontario workers and their families who've been thrust into despair because of their job losses."
Last week, the Liberal government came under fire after the provincially owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. purchased 22 foreign-made Mercedes-Benz cars to give away at casinos.
Deputy Premier George Smitherman admitted the OLG had made a "crappy" decision, especially when the government was looking to give billions of dollars in aid to Ontario's struggling automakers.
Ontario has lost more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the last few years, including tens of thousands this year.