1/16/2006

Scandal #96 and 97: Dingwall's Expenses and His Pension Plan

In accordance with the suggestion posted at Conservative Life, I have decided to research Scandals #96 and #97: David Dingwall's expenses as head of Royal Canadian Mint and the Liberal plan to give him a severance package after his resignation. I confess, I selected these scandals because I had already written about them to some extent in September and October.

The Honourable David Charles Dingwall, PC , B.Comm , LL.B was born on June 29, 1952. He is a former Liberal Cabinet minister and civil servant. We know him better as the "entitlements guy who ran the Mint."
Dingwall was a career politician for the Liberal Party. This comes as no surprise, given his now-infamous statement on entitlements. He was first elected in 1980 as the Liberal MP for Cape Breton-East Richmond in Nova Scotia. He was re-elected in three subsequent elections, and served as Opposition House Leader from 1991 to 1993.
When the Liberals won the election in 1993, Dingwall was appointed to Cabinet. He held several positions over the course of his term, including Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Minister of Public Works, Minister of Supply and Services and Minister of Health. He lost his seat in 1997 to NDP candidate Michelle Dockrill. Upon the loss of his seat, Dingwall served as the president of a lobbying firm, Wallding International Inc., a firm which he owns. I could not help but notice his choice of firm name. Because of his position as Minister of Public Works, Dingwall was called to testify at the Gomery Inquiry into the Sponsorship Scandal. There has been some doubt cast as to the truth of his testimony, in particular as regards his relationship with Chuck Guite.
In September 2005, Dingwall came under scrutiny for a series of expensestotalingg in excess of $740,000 charged to the Royal Canadian Mint. The list of expenses was obtained by Conservative MP Brian Pallister under the Access to Information Act. Because the Royal Canadian Mint is a Crown Corporation, these expenses were at a cost to the taxpayer. Stephen Taylor posted a list of his expenses, as did Stephen Fletcher. Certainly, Dingwall's most outrageous expense was for a pack of gum. As serious as it was however, this particular expense drew a fair amount of derision from the general public. Perhaps that is because Dingwall's salary was in excess of $240,000 per year and the pack of gum in question cost only $1.29.
In what was likely an attempt to save face, on September 28th, 2005, David Dingwall stepped down from his position as head of the Royal Canadian Mint. He was now under scrutiny for his role as a lobbyist for Bioniche Life Sciences Inc in 2000. Under the Technology Partnerships Canada program, Dingwall secured the company more than $15 million in contracts, for which he received an finders fee of approximately $350,000. His behaviour was justified as a clerical error, an honest mistake, despite the fact that he had repeatedly refused to appear before the Commons Committee that was to investigate his lobbying activities. Later that day, Dingwall offered a limp excuse for his behaviour, and never actually apologized for what he did.
It was suggested that Dingwall had chosen to step down as a favour to Prime Minister Martin, a last-ditch attempt to save a Party that had clearly begun to implode under the weight of its own corruption. Indeed, when it became clear that the Liberal Party had considered giving Dingwall a severance package despite the fact that he had quit, some people wondered what it was that Dingwall knew, and the possibility of hush money was raised by Conservative leader Stephen Harper. The Minister of National Revenue John McCallum suggested that the government was required to pay Dingwall severance, but during Question Period he was unable to cite which laws would force the government to pay severance to any employee who voluntarily quit their job. In the end McCallum said that Dingwall would be paid only the minimum severance requirement, but failed to indicate exactly what this minimum requirement was. Many Liberal MP's were outraged by the suggestion of a possible severance package. Outrage only grew when Prime Minister Martin not only failed to condemn Dingwall's behaviour, but even went so far as to defend him.
It came as no surprise, especially to Conservative MP Brian Pallister, when an independent audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper cleared Dingwall of any wrong doing. Dingwall immediately claimed that his expenses had been falsely reported by Pallister, and even had the audacity to threaten the Conservative Party with a lawsuit. It is worth noting that the auditors were not permitted to determine whether or not the Mint's spending rules were legitimate. In fact, it could be argued that the Mint really did not have any rules limiting Dingwall's spending and therefore the auditors had no choice but to clear him. Some felt that Pallister should apologize for his accusations. In addition to the packet of gum, the audit found that Dingwall had submitted a receipt for a bottle of water, but these expenses were covered under his regular $20 per diem for incidentals.
According to the Hill Times, Dingwall was entitled to $9,615.38 in severance pay. There were $6,769 in recoverable and reimbursable expenses in the audit, and were these to be deducted, the resulting severance is only $2,846.38. It is unclear, however, whether or not this is the amount of severance pay that Dingwall actually received.
Dingwall's statement on entitlements came back to haunt him in the Conservative campaign ad called "Entitlements." His behaviour, indicative of the entire Liberal Party, is now a reminder to all Canadians of who they should not vote for on the 23rd.

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