Friday, October 21, 2005

The Agreeable Mr. McCallum

Does Revenue Minister John McCallum think David Dingwall's resignation was a good idea? Let's look at his responses from Question Period yesterday:

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): ... Yesterday David Dingwall said he was told to go to the Privy Council Office to seek any severance he believes he is entitled to. The Privy Council Office is under the Prime Minister's direct authority. The Prime Minister has maintained that Mr. Dingwall quit voluntarily. In fact, he says his government urged him to stay.

Why does the Prime Minister not just say no to David Dingwall's demand for more money?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on the morning of September 28 Mr. Dingwall informed me that he was going to resign later that day. The reason he gave was that he thought it would be in the best interests of the Mint and I did not agree.

Ah. So Mr. McCallum thought the Dingwall resignation was a bad idea.

Or did he? Later on:

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Let us get this straight. Dingwall quit in disgrace. He did not fulfill his contract. He said he was leaving anyway, but now he is ready to sue us because he is entitled to his entitlements and the Prime Minister seems to agree with that.

For three weeks he and his government have been promoting the idea of paying Dingwall off with severance without providing us a single shred of evidence as to why. Dingwall could not successfully sue unless he had a deal.

Will the Prime Minister admit he did a Dingwall deal?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, rather than going through all these doubtful premises and hypotheses, why do we not just stick to the facts? The fact of the matter is, Mr. Dingwall telephoned me on the morning of September 28 and indicated he would resign later that day because he felt it was best for the Mint. I agreed.

Uh -- hold it. Didn't he say he just disagreed with that decision?

Let's see if he clarifies himself later on:

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Here are the facts. First, the revenue minister encourages Dingwall, then the Prime Minister accepts Dingwall's resignation. Then they both try to sell us on severance for Dingwall. Those are the facts.

Will the Prime Minister admit that he knew in advance that his minister had spoken to Dingwall concerning his entitlements?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, only one of those statements made by the hon. member I know to be absolutely false. The idea that I encouraged Mr. Dingwall is false. I can only assume his other statements are equally likely to be false.

I was informed by Mr. Dingwall on the morning that he was going to resign. When he said it was in the interests of the Mint, I did not disagree. That is not encouraging anything. It is accepting a resignation.

There are, methinks, two ways to interpret Mr. McCallum's statements:

1. He is genuinely indecisive when it comes to l'affaire Dingwall. He shifts from thinking of him as a valued executive (don't let him go!) to damaged goods (I don't need your troubles) to reluctant acknowledgement (fine, fine, do it your way).

2. Dingwall's troubles have paralyzed his thought processes, making him lose control of the English language. It's a variation of what they call "Bushspeak" in the States, and it happens more often than politicians care to admit.

Personally, I like this second explanation. It explains his earlier, robotic responses in Question Period when news of Dingwall's proposed severance leaked out.

Either way, of course, Mr. McCallum has done a pitiful job of defending the admittedly undefensible Dingwall. He should be thankful that no one is entertaining the idea of "Prime Minister McCallum" just yet, because that remote possibility has been revealed as a bigger pipe dream than Stephen Harper's.