Monday, May 23, 2011

"If it were Mr. Wall, would the media treat this any differently?"

John Gormley Live May 20, 2011 - Ultimate Open Lines Part 1 | News Talk 650 CKOM

"If you're going away on an entirely family matter, and you're a multi-millionaire as Mr. Lingenfelter is, he's a big land holder multi multi millionaire. Why wouldn't you just take your own family vehicle?"

The first 12 minutes of the audio at the link is a playback of the press conference where Mr. Lingenfelter is taken to task by the media at a scrum and some points being made by Mr. Gormley, including pointing out that Mr. Lingenfelter reimbursed the CVA for personal usage at a rate of 15.5 cents per kilometer in January.

Now, I'm not going to dispute that Mr. Lingenfelter reimburses the government what it asks for in the use of this vehicle. I'm not even going to dispute that the mileage rate might be low compared to the normal operating and capital costs of a vehicle. What I'm going to question, is why a CVA vehicle should have any usage outside of Saskatchewan at all.

Perhaps I'm just out of touch with government procedures, but it would seem to me that when a minister or an executive travels outside of the province, they would more likely than not fly to their destination and rent a vehicle or be provided with a shuttle while they are there. I would point out that it would be too time consuming for a minister or executive of the province to actually drive to their destination, especially given that most out of province meetings are held in cities with commercial airports.

It would also seem to me that the CVA's Operator's Handbook also subscribes to this by not articulating any procedures for out of province (or even out of country) purchasing of fuel, repairs or maintenance for the vehicle. There can be a very simple solution to this - plate the vehicle, as with a farm vehicle, to have limited insurance coverage and valid only in the Province of Saskatchewan. If the operator of the vehicle knows that there is no insurance coverage outside of the province of Saskatchewan, then the vehicle will stay where it belongs.

As for Mr. Lingenfelter, there are two points to make - obviously his CVA vehicle is more fuel efficient than his other personal vehicles, otherwise he wouldn't choose to take a vehicle for which he pays a "high rate, something like 50 cents" per kilometer for personal use to a destination 3000 km round trip from his home. If his figure can be believed, that's a $1500 trip, and while cheaper than airfare I'm sure, it's still much more expensive than driving your own vehicle. Second point was that his first instinct in answering the questions was to deny he did anything wrong and then call into question the integrity of other Ministers or CVA vehicle recipients by alleging misconduct in their not claiming the personal use to drive to the cabin or the lake.

This last bit - moreso than his own misstep, moreso than the questions from the media about the fact that this information has been leaked from the CVA - is something that the media SHOULD be investigating. If Mr. Lingenfelter has evidence of Ministers or Deputy Ministers who are using their vehicles for personal use without claiming it, then it should be brought to light - regardless of the dollar value. Let the public decide whether the dollar values are worth the accusation, but don't leave the accusation hanging out there.

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