Penashue should be removed from office, critics say

James McLeod
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Overspending ‘bought’ Labrador election, opponents allege

When rookie Labrador MHA Randy Edmunds was campaigning along the coast of northern Labrador last fall, he didn’t use a plane — he used an open boat.

Edmunds credits his election victory last fall in part to his ability to get into communities and talk to people directly.

“I went from community to community, and anyone who knew me up there, or anyone who knows me up there, they wouldn’t expect anything less,” he said. “It’s very important, and it’s one of the reasons why the incumbent lost the election.”

Cruising up and down the north coast of Labrador was a rugged way to campaign, Ed­munds said, but it did have one major advantage.

“It was cost-effective, for start­ers,” he said.


Beyond limit

Edmunds’ comments came in the wake of CBC re­ports which show that in the last federal election Lab­rador MP Peter Pen­ashue massively overspent his campaign limit by flying all over Labrador.

“Certainly he would get to cover off the communities faster and more often, but when you fly in an airplane there’s a price tag and we’re certainly starting to see the results of his campaign now,” Edmunds said. “Going 21 per cent over budget is certainly an incredible amount, and as far as being a rookie, I was a rookie, but the first thing I checked is what my guidelines are. I don’t buy that excuse of not knowing what the guidelines are.”

All of this comes as  Penashue is under fire for overspending in the 2011 general election, and violating campaign finance rules.

CBC News reported that Provincial Airlines wrote off thousands of dollars’ worth of flights after the election, once Penashue’s campaign said it could pay only $7,000.

Documents reported by CBC show that Penashue had already overspent by nearly $4,000.

Penashue refused to do an interview with The Telegram for this story.


In a statement provided by a spokesman, Penashue characterized the issue as “mistakes that were made” by his former official financial agent.

In the House of Commons Thursday, Liberal and New Democrat MPs pressed for answers.

Despite the fact Penashue was in the chamber, it was Pierre Poilievre, minister of state for transport, who answered questions on his behalf.

Poilievre, responding to NDP MP Jack Harris, said the Conservative party is working to rectify the situation.

“The new official agent in place will work with Elections Canada to correct any mistakes that have been made,” Poilievre said. “But one mistake that still needs correcting for the benefit of all Newfoundlanders in that member’s riding is that he and his party are promoting a devastating carbon tax that would kill the jobs of Newfoundlanders.”

The NDP advocates a cap-and-trade system when it comes to carbon emissions.

In a subsequent question on Penashue’s expenses from Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice, Poilievre responded by saying the more important issue is not Penashue, but whether Boulerice is a separatist.

Former Liberal MP Todd Russell, who lost the 2011 campaign to Penashue, said it is nettlesome to see that the election result may not have been honest.

“This certainly puts a bit of salt in the wound when you know someone may have cheated and won unfairly, and that not everybody was abiding by the same rules,” he said. “I’ve been involved in nine to 10 elections as an aboriginal leader and in federal politics. When there has been a fair playing field, when people follow the rules, I have won every single one of those elections.”

Russell wouldn’t say whether he’ll run if a byelection is called, or whether he’ll try to retake the riding in the 2015 election, but said he’s moved on.

“I’m the president of NunatuKavut. I have a strong mandate to represent the rights of the people of NunatuKavut,” he said. “I haven’t given much thought at all to where things are going to be in 2015, and certainly I’m just concentrating on the job that’s in front of me.”

Harris told The Telegram that he hopes Penashue will be removed from office once the Elections Canada investigation concludes.

“If you avoid spending limits, if you accept illegal donations, there comes a point where the legitimacy of your seat in Parliament is in question. This is something that we have to ask Elections Canada to act quickly on,” Harris said. “Clearly it’s not acceptable for an individual who’s been unfairly elected to continue to serve, but the details and the findings have to be made by someone who’s appointed to do so.”

Liberal MP Scott Andrews said it defies belief when Penashue has said it was only honest mistakes that were made. Andrews accused Penashue of deliberately trying to mislead Elections Canada.

“He did it knowingly. Instead of submitting it as it was and face the consequences, knowing that you’ve done something wrong, he tried to fix it,” Andrews said. “You tried to cook the books, and that’s what looks bad.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: CBC, Elections Canada, House of Commons

Geographic location: Labrador, Northern Labrador

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Recent comments

  • david michelin
    October 22, 2012 - 00:19

    the one thing everyone seems to forget is the high cost of airfares in labrador, if a candidate overspends by flying to each community to do his campaining then something is wrong here, remember there are no roads to these communities. campaining on facebook dont cut it. try asking more important questions.

    October 20, 2012 - 17:07

    Wow....politicians being dishonest! Lets remove every dishonest politician!! Wait, who will run the government?

  • Edward Sawdon
    October 19, 2012 - 22:10

    Regardless of Mr. Penashue and his 2011 campaign staff's inexperience and imcompentence, he should resign his federal cabinet position of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister until at least Election Canada makes a complete investigation of this serious matter. Likewise, Penashue's Saskatchewan counterpart, Gerry Ritz should resign his Agriculture Minister position or be fired from his position (Re: XL Food's E-Coli Tainted Beef recall

  • James G. Learning
    October 19, 2012 - 17:38

    I think we need to go back to the days of Hickey, and take a good look at the whole Labrador election landscape, It would seem there are stranbge things going on here and have been for a while. My sense Peter is a product of this system, and it's long over due to be looked into. CBC has done a good job, it needs to finish the job, now.

  • Tim Jamison
    October 19, 2012 - 16:23

    Sure. Let's call a byelection. Right after the Guelph liberals call a byelection and every, single NDP riding calls a byelection because of the 344 thousand dollar illegal donation they accepted, from a combination of trade unions. Somehow I doubt this comment will make it to print in this paper, seeing as there was not one Telegram story about the largest electoral fraud of the 2011 election (the 344 grand union donation). Objective paper indeed...

    • hiker
      October 20, 2012 - 13:53

      I have to agree with you Tim. They would not post my objective point of view. All I wanted to know was why would NL want to cut their only tie to the federal government. What would they gain ? This paper is not very objective .

  • where will it end?
    October 19, 2012 - 11:25

    downward spiral in democracy in Canada? either we here in Newfoundland Labrador demand that Penashue be removed from office or we are allowing the CRAP (conservative, reform, alliance party) of canada to take away our Democracy. the people of Newfoundland Labrador have the opportunity to put their foot down and say"this is far enough stevie" we want our Canada back. to do anything less will tell the con's that we don't really need an election in 2015 and anything stevie does is "ok" with us.

  • McCadden
    October 19, 2012 - 10:48

    If the people of Labrador were given another vote today, it would not be for Peter Penashue. Though he is not the first politician to abuse regulations about spending (remember the provincial scandal where members of the House of Assembly were with charged in court and had to pay back illigitimate expenses. Using planes to travel to coastal communities gave Penashue a clear advantage. The votes should be re-counted. Better still, Harper has the opportunity to show good judgement - for once. He's banished MP's for far less in the past. Two years ago Helena Guergis was forced to resign from the Cabinet of Canada and leave the Conservative Party caucus in 2010, pending a Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation into "serious" but unspecified allegations regarding her conduct. Given the geography of Labrador, Peter Penashue had an unfair advantage by getting "free flights" to every community. Despite the outcome, his reputation is tarnished forever. What - if anything - did he promise the owner of the airline in return for free flights?

  • Carl
    October 19, 2012 - 09:48

    Ideally, here is the way this should play out: If and when Elections Canada finds that the Elections Act has been violated in a manner that could reasonably be assumed to have effected the election result, then Penashue should pay any penalty that applies and voluntarily resign. He could then run in a by-election if he is allowed and if he so chooses. And if he is found to have broken the law and does not voluntarily step aside, then the PM should remove him. But first we should all wait and see what Elections Canada says once they have assessed all the information.

  • Richard Harris Jr.
    October 19, 2012 - 09:32

    Oh Peter Oh Peter, who are you trying to fool. You had Reg Bowers as your campaign manager. Mr. Bowers graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador with a Bachelor of Commerce and did extensive post secondary work with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Mr. Bowers is now with the Offshore Petroleum Board making Million Dollar decisions and you claim that because you were a rookie, you overspent. Are you stating that Mr. Bowers wasn't calculator savvy? Face the facts 'Peter Threwmoneyaway', you're caught. As for the LIberal barking, they put NL that far in the hole, Harry Summers' Crane couldn't pull them out.

  • Steve
    October 19, 2012 - 09:24

    Going $500 or $1100 over your limit on an $80,000 budget could very well be an accounting error, but being over by the amount that Penashue was, it is very hard to accept that it was an error. Whether it was through negligence or not, the fact is that he was able to do more travelling and campaigning than his opponents, which gave him an unfair advantage. If he doesn't resign his seat, the message to any candidate would be, don't worry about overspending, it's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose. That's not democracy in my book.

  • Eli
    October 19, 2012 - 09:14

    If you missed The National and Peter Mansbridge's "Panel" on CBC last nite you missed a sober insight on the downward spiral democracy is on in Canada. It's frightening.

  • sc
    October 19, 2012 - 08:19

    This is just another Conservative who feels that regulations and laws are only for everyone else. No surprise there as this sort of attitude is commonplace in Steve's government. Also, I wonder how many people like the idea that Provincial Airlines, when it discovered that Penashue couldn't pay for his travel, simply wrote off thousands of dollars he owed and thereby contributed to this fraud -- oops, 'honest mistake'. In addition to making its political affiliation so abundantly clear, I suspect the airline will increase fares to make up for the lost money. I'm glad that I don't ever need to use it.

  • Steve
    October 19, 2012 - 07:59

    Hes one of many that has to go. Canadian democracy is quickly eroding away under the Harper regime. At the very least a bi-election should be called immediately.

  • Ballyclatters
    October 19, 2012 - 07:44

    "I was a rookie, but the first thing I checked is what my guidelines are." Yes... provincial regulations and provincial resources. I went to the Elections Canada website to see for myself what it says about election expenses. The online booklet Treatment of Candidates' Election Expenses... states "Personal expenses of a candidate are his or her electoral campaign expenses, other than election expenses, that are reasonably incurred in relation to his or her campaign and include: – (a) travel and living expenses". The Canada Elections Act itself says that transportation to and within the electoral district is a personal expenses (s.409(1)(a)). I can see how someone new to it could make a mistake, especially if just thrown into the deep end. The fuss is just politics.

    • hiker
      October 19, 2012 - 14:26

      By looking at these comments it is obvious that Russell has got his friends to attack this conservative MP for partisan reasons. Do the people of NL not realize that this MP is the only connection you have with the federal government. He is also a cabinet minister which adds a greater contact. What could Russell do better. I think NL does not need another federal MP like Fontana in Ont. Talk about corruption !! Good read on the federal liberals today regarding how corrupt they were in the past.