Mon, Jun
8
2009

Raitt's Steakhouse (The Conservatives' Dingwall Moment?)

Mon, Jun 8, 2009

The problems of the Minister of Natural Resources, Lisa Raitt, appear to be snowballing, with some of the blowback affecting her cabinet colleague, Transport Minister John Baird. Calls are being made for the Auditor General to examine some of the expenses charged on the Toronto Port Authority’s dime while Raitt was its CEO.

I have to confess to being uncertain of the Auditor General’s mandate, here. Does she do crown corporations? If so, does the Toronto Port Authority qualify? But, in any event, one particular accusation caught my eye:

They [Four Toronto Port Authority board members —jb] said management spent $50,000 at a steakhouse, and that one lunch cost nearly $1,000, approved their own expenses and spent an unnecessary amount of time in England on the Port Authority’s dime

(hat tip: Dr. Dawg)

Back in the dying days of the Paul Martin Liberal government, the opposition got considerable traction with the Canadian public over reports of some reckless Liberal spending. In particular, Liberal Minister David Dingwall basically ensured the Conservatives’ win in the next election by, among other things, charging a pack of gum to his expense account, buying a $113 pizza (correction: I’m an idiot. David Dingwall didn’t buy the pizza; Liberal Joe Fontana did, in an unrelated event that occurred at roughly the same time), and later saying “I’m entitled to my entitlements.

And, at the time, I couldn’t help saying the following:

What on Earth goes on a $113 pizza? Cheese from Himalayan goats? Caviar anchovies? Organic grain-fed olives? What?

(link)

Must be a really good pizza.

So, I have to ask: how does one spend $50,000 at a steakhouse? How does one lunch cost $1000? I am aware that a good steak goes for considerably more than a pizza, but come on. How many people were at these lunches? And what did they order? Sir Loin-a-Lot?!

There’s a reason that this sort of thing brings down governments. When David DingwallJoe Fontana paid $113 for a pizza — which is about four times the amount any family spends on a single pizza — he confirmed in the minds of most Canadians that the Liberals were now out of touch with the electorate and interested in their own self-aggrandizement. That they cared so little about our tax dollars that they spent it… well, that they spent it like candy. Specifically: gum.

And now, if these allegations stick, they will plant the feeling in many Canadians’ minds that the Conservative government is no better than the government it replaced, despite promising to be better. Even worse, they’ve managed to match the Martin Liberals’ arrogance and self-centredness in three years instead of thirteen.

$1000 for a steakhouse lunch. I mean, really!

Hmm…

Must be really good steak…

Time to make dinner.


(…Later…)

Having had about five hours to think this over, I think there is an added dimension, here. the Liberals’ problem is not that a minister paid $113 for a meal, but that the meal was a pizza. If he’d spent $30 for a pizza for his staff or for people his ministry was working with, the average Canadian would just shrug and consider that a simple business expense. Workers need to eat. The minister goes out, gets a pizza and puts it on the ministry’s expense account. Where’s the problem?

Likewise, steak dinners are expensive. A dinner for two could easily cost $100. And yet this wining and dining of dignitaries, possible sponsors and other business interests is part of the cost of doing business. Indeed, spending $1000 on a lunch at a steakhouse isn’t outside the realm of normal, especially if twenty visiting dignitaries are involved. It’s the fact that, instead of a $30 pizza, DingwallFontana managed to find a $113 pizza, that people took notice. What on earth does a person have to do to buy a $113 pizza? What goes on it? And why couldn’t a $30 pizza suffice?

Lisa Raitt still has a problem with the $50,000 spent on that steakhouse, however. Offering lunch to 20 dignitaries is one thing, but 1,000? Does the Toronto Port Authority do that much business?


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