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Alcock urged Dingwall not to quit  

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:20 p.m. September 28, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The president of the Treasury Board told reporters Wednesday that he urged the head of the Royal Canadian Mint not to resign after the morning newspapers were filled with stories about $750,000 in expenses he and two staffers racked up last year.  

Prime Minister Paul Martin accepted David Dingwall's resignation as head of the Mint less than 24 hours after stories moved across the wire about Dingwall's expenses. 

The expense report was leaked to the media by Conservative MP Brian Pallister, who obtained the documents through Access to Information. 

It included:
> $92,682 for foreign travel, including a one day bill for over $13,000.
> $40,355 for domestic travel
> $11,173 for domestic dining, including $5,953 for a single bill at an Ottawa restaurant
> $5,297 for golf membership fees for Dingwall.

But in a statement Dingwall released to the media, he defended the expenditures. 

"With regard to the issue of my expenses, all of the expenses were related to my responsibilities and each of them were disclosed to the board and will stand up to scrutiny as completely appropriate to my role as president of the Mint," Dingwall said. 

"I have asked the board to strike an independent committee to review all of the expenses and I will abide by any findings the committee may have with regard to their appropriateness."

Dingwall said he was hastening his decision to step down so as not to "detract in any way from the important work of the Mint."

Speaking with reporters after question period, Treasury Board President Reg Alcock said he thought Dingwall shouldn't have resigned. 

"I did have a conversation with him this morning in which I encouraged him to stay because I think he's done an excellent job as head of the Mint," Alcock said. 

Citing what he called opposition attempts to "assassinate" people during question period everyday, Alcock said Dingwall used his political instincts to step down.

"He felt that this was going to be something that he was going to be hectored about forever and he thought in fairness to the Mint and himself and his family he'd sooner step outside and deal with it."

In the House of Commons, the prime minister praised Dingwall's handling of the Mint when asked about the resignation. 

"May I just simply say that under his tutelage at the Mint, the Mint has now been returned to profit," the PM said. 

The PM's tepid response bothered NDP Leader Jack Layton and Pallister. 

"Why isn't the prime minister saying that this behavour ... is not acceptable?" Layton asked.

"Why can't the prime minister simply stand up and also say he's changing the rules so that this kind of thing can't happen again? It's not like it's the first time."

Pallister said he was "very surprised" by the PM's reaction and said he was taking a major risk by "becoming a defender and an apologist for this kind of abuse of spending practices.

"This happened under his watch. These kinds of abuses didn't happen during the Chretien era. They happened right under Paul Martin's nose. And I'm extremely disappointed that he wouldn't have taken responsibility for that today and that he wouldn't apologize for frankly the lack of proper governance and oversight practices."

While a long-time Liberal, Dingwall was known more as a loyalist of former prime minister Jean Chretien and not a member of the Martin camp and was appointed to the Mint by Chretien. 

Dingwall's name has surfaced in the paper for unrelated matters in recent weeks, including a Globe and Mail story reporting he received contingency fees for lobbying work he did for companies that won grants from the Technology Partnership's Program, a program the government recently scrapped. 

Contingency fees are not permitted under the program.

In his statement, Dingwall also addressed that controversy and said he did "to the best of my knowledge and ability, comply with all aspects of the Act governing the government relations business. 

"If there was a registration problem or other technical compliance issue on one of the contracts, then that is entirely my responsibility."

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