11 January 2008

Rideout misrepresents former cabinet colleague's remarks

rideout toqueFish minister and deputy premier Tom Rideout must be having a bad day. 

Not only is he now on the hook repaying several thousands dollars of taxpayers cash he received but was not entitled to, but it turns out his rebuke of former cabinet colleague Loyola Sullivan is based on Rideout's misrepresentation of Sullivan's comments.

Here's Tom's version, as reproduced by CBC:

We were astounded and surprised at the view taken by [fisheries ambassador Loyola Sullivan] when he made the remark that we're 10 years too late for the fight," Rideout said in a statement, describing Sullivan's appearance at a Fur Institute of Canada meeting in St. John's earlier this week.

Here's the next bit of the CBC story, giving Sullivan's actual words.

However, Sullivan's precise comment while speaking with reporters was substantially different than Rideout's rendering of it.

"It's difficult because it's advanced so far," Sullivan said, describing the effectiveness of campaigns by groups protesting the seal hunt.

"I would love to have been in this position 10 years ago, to be able to advance it before it got such a foothold."

It's like the different between an office and a house.

Last month, The Telegram revealed that Rideout had claimed rent of a house in his constituency, even though House of Assembly rules at the time didn't allow members to claim rent or mortgage costs for property in the districts they represented.

Confronted with the claims totalling $23,000 over eight years, Rideout initially defended the expenses saying that he had permission from administrative staff at the legislature for the arrangement. On Friday, Rideout took a very different position:

"I have personally concluded that the way in which these residential expenses were billed to my constituency allowance was not appropriate," he said during a news conference.

"I take full responsibility for that and it is therefore my responsibility to ensure that it is rectified."

Rideout's initial defence started to come apart at the seams when he made incorrect statements on a local radio talk show.  As reported previously, Rideout said that he had only claimed per diems for meals and similar expenses.  Documents obtained by the Telegram showed Rideout claimed both per diems for meals as well as per diems for accommodations even though he was occupying a house and office already being paid for by taxpayers.

Rideout was a member of the House internal management committee at the time he began the expense claim arrangement.  During Rideout's term on the committee, it approved changes to legislation governing the House administration that led, in one instance to the auditor general be barred from auditing the legislature's own accounts. The period was well described by Chief Justice Derek Green in his recent report on the period.


Related links:

"Beholder, beheld and beholden", a post that notes the curious change in perspective on the Rideout affair from a newbie local blogger once the Premier spoke on the subject:

If Deputy Premier Tom Rideout had permission from the House of Assembly, and thus a special arrangement, to claim for accommodations in Lewisporte, then what has he done wrong? The accommodations exist, permission was granted to claim a legitimate expense, and he has done nothing illegal.

Wonder what the view is now that even Rideout admits there was something wrong in the billing arrangement.