The chewing gum scandal isn’t losing its flavour. A sinister inconsistency has crept in, just when it looked like the scandal had stopped being juicy.

Note this:“Through the Access to Information Act, Conservative MP Brian Pallister obtained the documents that uncovered the wild spending in Dingwall’s office, which included: $14,000 in meals, a $1,400 tab for a membership in an Ottawa-area golf club, and $1.29 for a pack of chewing gum.” (CTV, October 3.)

And now, pay close attention to this, from a statement by Housing Minister Joe Fontana quoted in the National Poston October 6: “My constituents are ticked off about the fact that somebody would put in an expense claim for $1.79 for gum.”

You spotted it, didn’t you. On October 3, the chewing gum charged as part of David Dingwall’s expenses at the Canadian Mint was $1.29. On October 6, the chewing gum — which we must presume was mint-flavoured — cost $1.79.

Which leads to the obvious question: How can we have, as president of the Royal Canadian Mint, someone who doesn’t even know what a pack of gum costs?

Wrigleygate: The powerful impact of the chewing gum scandal is shown by the fact that even Liberals are concerned about it, as demonstrated by a quote from Revenue Minister John McCallum, quoted in the Edmonton Sun on October 3: “I certainly share the judgment of most Canadians that he displayed poor judgment in charging the chewing gum âe¦”.

Note that this was at a time when he thought the gum cost only $1.29. It was several days before Joe Fontana revealed that the gum cost $1.79, raising another important question: How can we have, as Revenue minister, someone who doesn’t know what a pack of gum costs?

You can bet that the Opposition parties will be raising this in Question Period. Who knew that gum cost $1.79, and when did he know it?Canadians want to get to the bottom of this because it is the kind of scandal they can understand. The Gomery stuff, the millions wasted on sponsorships, the incredible unanticipated costs of the gun registry and helicopters and everything else the government ever fumbled — these are not the kinds of things that get Canadians mad.

Brian Mulroney got away with running big budget deficits, but when it was revealed that he had many pairs of fancy shoes in his closet — well, then the chewing gum hit the bedpost.

These are extravagances that mean something to Canadians. A guy is supposed to have one good pair of shoes, black ones, to wear to weddings. Maybe if he works in an office and has to dress up he can have a pair of brown ones too. Everything else is a sign of extravagance and foppery.The same goes with meals. You can spend $100 if you’re having a fancy dinner out once a year, maybe $150 if it’s your anniversary, and another $50 or so if you bring your parents along. More than that is showing off. And especially if the taxpayer is paying.

Canadians know that. If you spent $3 billion on something, you might get away with it, but not $14,000, and certainly not $1.79, or even $1.29. Look at where the anger is directed on gasoline prices. Extra billions are going to the oil companies but what makes Canadians bite down hard on their gum is an extra 4.6 cents a kilometre for MPs’ travel allowances.

Canadians are the kinds of people who buy their own gum. That goes back to the pioneer days. The voyageurs bought their own gum. Or they made it from sticky stuff on trees. And they didn’t go billing the government for it.Even now, in our pampered society, we pay for our own, and we even take the trouble of wrapping it in a little piece of paper before we throw it out. And do we ask any thanks for that?

No, not even when we are using the gum to help us quit smoking.So it’s pretty bad, this scandal, and now, with the inconsistency in the figures, it’s even worse.

Was it $1.29, or $1.79? Or what about the 99 cents that was charged just this week in a local Loblaws store, not far from Parliament Hill, a price that even included chlorophyll, according to the package? That adds a new dimension to it. Should Dingwall be dinged for charging such a small amount to his expense account, or should he be condemned for paying too much?

The government may fall, or at least stumble, the way you do when there’s something stuck to your shoe.