Skip to main content
coining a phrase

David Dingwall, former head of the Royal Canadian Mint and Liberal cabinet minister, appears before a Commons committee in 2005.FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

David Dingwall famously asserted he was "entitled to his entitlements." And now the former Liberal politician's name has morphed into a verb.

"Dingwalling" is being used in the House of Commons to describe the haughty actions of certain front-bench government MPs who think that because they are cabinet ministers they are entitled to planes, to gold-embossed business cards and to use government funds as a treasure trove of largesse for their own ridings.

But this new verb represents even more than that, argues Peter Stoffer, the veteran Nova Scotia New Democrat who coined the new term. It's a warning to governments to be more humble.

"Once you start dingwalling the Canadian people you are starting to become arrogant," Mr. Stoffer told The Globe and Mail. "And once you become arrogant the Canadian people will throw you out on your arse."

This is not new to him. It's a pattern of governments, no matter their stripe.

"I have seen this happen with the Liberals in 1997 and onwards," Mr. Stoffer said Wednesday. "A level of arrogance starts to seep on the front bench and people start thinking they are entitled to those entitlements."

He argues Industry Minister Tony Clement's response to spending of millions of G8 money in his Huntsville riding comes with a "hint of arrogance."

And there is a hint of arrogance, too, Mr. Stoffer says, in Defence Minister Peter MacKay's justification for using government jets to ferry him to events to which he could just as easily fly commercial.

The same applies to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his decision to order gold-embossed business cards.

Mr. Stoffer's verb has its origins in the antics of Mr. Dingwall, a fierce Chretien loyalist and former cabinet minister who was later appointed to head the Royal Canadian Mint. He resigned from that post in 2005 after the Tories, through an access to information request, found that he had spent nearly $75,000 in expenses as head of the Crown corporation.

At a Commons committee, he defended his right to receive a generous severance package, famously saying: "I am entitled to my entitlements." That line haunted Paul Martin's government, which was also devastated by the sponsorship scandal in Quebec.

"I have warned a couple of backbenchers of the Conservative Party," Mr. Stoffer said. "I have said 'watch out for that' because governments destroy themselves, they defeat themselves."

He says the arrogance of the front bench causes suffering on the back bench. "The reality is it makes all politicians look bad. So, one should never dingwall the Canadian people."

Interact with The Globe