27 October 2005

Dingwall's expenses - updated

While Connies like this local one, this big Mainland one, and this one, have been attacking former Royal Canadian Mint boss David Dingwall over his expense account claims, two reports released today add up to yet another failure of the Connies to garner any sort of credibility.

(Left) Former Royal Canadian Mint chief executive officer David Dingwall. Photo: Canadian Press

Turns out what they claimed was wrong - substantively wrong.

The big loser here (after Steve Harper) is a guy named Brian Pallister, much loved over at Reflexive Grit Loathing, who was part of the Dingwall attack pack and whose claims have been shown to be, in a word, false. Take a gander at this little piece of video the Connies were passing around earlier in October but which now looks kind of dumb in light of today's revelations.

Updated - Pallister's argument is now that he wants to complain about the rules not about the specific claims made by Dingwall. This is the kind of moving target approach that just doesn't garner cred either. Every time one of your arguments is shot down by facts, you just claim you never argued that in the first place and then pick up on something.

As CBC reports, "Among the [PriceWaterhouseCoopers] audit's findings:

- The $5,800 allegedly spent on one meal was for a two-day seminar involving 24 mint personnel.

- The money allegedly spent on chewing gum was covered under the allowable $20/day incidental expenses.

- There was no evidence of the alleged $13,000 for one day of travel but two claims for $13, 693.83 for a four-day conference in Phoenix and mint-related meetings in New Brunswick, the UK, Switzerland and Germany.

The audit did find that $2,570.66 was determined to be reimbursable to the mint. In addition, $4,198.35 was deemed recoverable due to a clerical payroll error and car insurance prepayments issued by the mint." [emphasis added]

As reported by the Globe and Mail, a second review, carried out by Peter Dey of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, "found that the governance process followed by the Mint with respect to the approval and reimbursement of its CEO's expenses was sufficient to ensure that the Corporation's funds were 'expended in a manner consistent with the Mint's policy.' "

Apparently, there's also no evidence that Dingwall dinged the Mint for a pack of chewing gum.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper is quoted as slamming Dingwall for not using "political judgment" in his travel claims and criticizing the reports since the rules were supposedly made by Dingwall.


It really isn't clear what "political judgment" Dingwall is supposed to have lacked since the expenses turn out to be legitimate and were totally misrepresented by Harper and his party. It also isn't clear how Dingwall made up his own rules since the claims policy is set by the board of directors, of which Dingwall used to be just one member.

Perhaps the biggest failing of the Connie attack on Dingwall is that the totals are way off. As the Mint board of directors noted in early October, more than 70% of the figure of almost $750,000 Dingwall critics had claimed were "expenses" was actually salaries.

Then there is the matter of Dingwall's ability to actually spend some cash doing what he got paid to do: bring in new business for the Mint. This contract with Thailand is one example.

I am no fan of David Dingwall, but when someone is attacked and personally vilified without any cause other than rank partisanship, the facts of the matter must be presented.

Incidentally, this sort of political attack may go a long way to explaining why the Conservatives have a hard time making any headway with public support. It is much like the Grewal affair.

Claims are made.

A media feeding frenzy ensues.

Then the bubble bursts, in this case the chewing gum bubble.

The facts emerge at which point everyone realizes that the Conservatives are making unsubstantiated claims.

Credibility takes a huge nosedive.

The Conservatives blame everyone else except themselves and their leader.