Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ding's Done

The blossoming TPC scandal has claimed its first victim:

David Dingwall resigned Wednesday as president of the Royal Canadian Mint.

The former Liberal cabinet minister has become embroiled in controversy after it was recently revealed he failed to register as a lobbyist for a Toronto pharmaceutical company.

Mr. Dingwall stepped aside amid controversy about his lobbying activities, before his appointment to the Mint as well as questions about his expenses while heading up the Crown corporation.

His lobbying activities on behalf of Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. are under scrutiny by Industry Canada.

In May, 2000, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. agreed to pay Mr. Dingwall $350,000 if the company were successful in getting at least $15-million under the department's Technology Partnerships Canada program, The Globe and Mail reported.

TPC rules forbid payment of contingency fees to lobbyists. This week, the company agreed to pay back more than $400,000 to Ottawa. And his aide said this week that the failure to register, as required by federal law, was an honest mistake.

She called it a "clerical error."

As well, Access to Information documents released this week showed that as head of the Mint, in 2004 alone Mr. Dingwall billed $91,437 for trips around the world and he and his top aides billed for total expenses of more than $74,000 last year.

The documents were requested by Conservative MP Brian Pallister.

This is definitely not something Paul Martin needs, right now. What makes this important is that Dingwall used to be a cabinet minister under the Chr├ętien government -- the same cabinet that had Martin as finance minister. Did the Chr├ętien style of government foster or encourage the type of behavior that's gotten Dingwall into this sort of trouble? And if so -- to what extent does this type of outlook pervade Paul Martin's current administration?

And what's really troubling is that the Auditor-General's office, who's investigating TPC, still hasn't reported yet.

Martin's problems with his government's integrity aren't going to go away with the Gomery report. They're going to escalate.