Penashue blames agent, says he’s surprised by spending allegations

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Peter Penashue

By Sue Bailey

THE CANADIAN PRESS

A promised update on campaign spending from embattled federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue turned out to be an online letter repeating the Conservative message track in his defence.

In an open letter to constituents posted on his MP website Tuesday, Penashue puts the blame squarely on Reginald Bowers, his former campaign manager. It’s the same response used by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other senior Conservatives in recent months since Elections Canada auditors flagged about $4,000 in overspending.

Since then, Penashue has also been accused of accepting thousands of dollars in free flights around his riding along with a questionable donation from a construction company in St. John’s during last year’s election.

“As official agent, Reg was responsible for administration and bookkeeping,” says Penashue’s letter. “I focused on campaigning across this massive riding and meeting the people of Labrador.

“I was very clear during the campaign that we would follow the rules. I specifically indicated that, in accordance with the law, we could not accept corporate donations. I was not aware of any problems or irregularities during the campaign.

“No one is more surprised than I am at the allegations that have arisen since the campaign. No one is more disappointed. That’s why there is a new official agent in place to examine all of the paperwork and to work with Elections Canada to correct any mistakes.”

That appears to be the extent of an update to constituents that Penashue promised last week in Ottawa.

Penashue was travelling the remote southern Labrador coast on Tuesday to hand out Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals for community service in Port Hope Simpson. Neither he nor his spokesman Cory Hann could be reached by email or cellphone.

Penashue has been attacked for weeks in the House of Commons, but Harper has shrugged off calls for his resignation.

Bowers was later named by the federal government to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board which regulates the oil sector. He has not returned messages seeking comment.

Margaret Burden, a businesswoman and community volunteer who owns the Alexis Hotel in Port Hope Simpson, was one of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients Tuesday.

She said the ceremony should be about recognizing public service, but that Penashue also needs to clear the air with voters.

“I feel that he has to be forthcoming and give people what they’re looking for,” Burden said from Port Hope Simpson. “If it was a bad thing, then explain it and apologize. If it wasn’t, if it was errors on someone else’s part, well do that too. But please don’t avoid the questions that are being asked because it’s becoming like a snowball. It’s just gathering speed as it goes.”

Penashue has much to offer Canada and Labrador, Burden said.

“But I feel that this is a very negative thing in his life at this particular time, and I know it’s difficult for someone to come out and even address it. But I feel that, the gentleman that he is, I’m sure that he will at some point in time make a public address and let the people know.

“Life would be a lot better for him and he’d be able to get on with doing what he does best, which is represent the people of Labrador and represent Canada in his portfolio.”

Penashue’s surprise victory by just 79 votes over Liberal incumbent Todd Russell was the only Conservative win in the province.

Penashue has said he won’t step down despite calls from the opposition for a byelection and accusations that he “bought” the election.

Russell said constituents who were anticipating answers seem to have been treated to a public relations stunt.

“Obviously there’s no disclosure and there’s no new information,” he said Tuesday in an interview. “This seems to be a very poorly done publicity piece. Giving out Queen’s Jubilee medals is part of your regular business.

“It’s not what the constituents were expecting and certainly not what they deserve. What they deserve is full disclosure, full accountability and full responsibility being taken for what happened.”

Russell said Elections Canada must do a thorough investigation on the ground in Labrador, “and not just a review of the returns.”

The minister has also been under siege for travel expenses and the extent to which he has visited other parts of Canada in his cabinet role.

A list published by his department shows 79 per cent of Penashue’s ministerial travel has been in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, even though he’s the intergovernmental affairs minister responsible for managing federal relations with all provinces and territories.

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Recent comments

  • Ed Power
    November 14, 2012 - 09:02

    Strange, isn't it "No Big Deal", that none of the dozens of other rookie candidates that ran in the last election made such a "simple rookie mistake"? They all stayed on budget, and within the Elections Canada guidelines, and some even managed to elected despite having to live within their legal limits. And it isn't "only 4000 in overspending", there is a questionable loan from his brother and some $18,000 in airfare the Peter Penasue Campaign Travelling Roadshow - sorry, that should be "Travelling Airshow" - was unable to pay,and which was subsequently written off by the airline. I know if I were to leave an airline, or any other business, with an unpaid $18000 bill, I would be standing in a courtroom facing fraud charges, but Peter Pauper gets to skate away and profits - quite handsomely, in fact - from his fraud. Our ethically and morally challenged Minister deserves a seat in the the house alright, the Big House, not a well paid seat in the House of Parliament.

  • Scott Free
    November 14, 2012 - 08:36

    Come home Peter and stop embarassing yourself, your constituents, your country and democracy.

  • Jack
    November 14, 2012 - 08:23

    With more federal Cabinet Ministers like Peter Penashue not taking responsibility for their actions, even if its their Agent's fault, anyone whom runs for provincial or federal government seats should be forced to take university level Commercial Law courses so they can better learn about Employment Law, Agency Law, and the concept of Vicarious Liability. If Peter Penashue did his homework on Agency law, since Mr. Bowers is acting on Peter Penashue's behalf, legally speaking, he is liable for Mr. Bowers' actions. In others, its Peter Penashue's fault for campaign overspending, and its his fault he got donations illegally. If Penashue doesn't accept responsibility for his actions, not only will he not be re-elected in the 2015 Federal Elections, he will also be suffering from "Derek Wheeler Syndrome", named after an old-school Degrassi character will known for blaming other people for his problems, Derek "Wheels" Wheeler.

  • Cathy
    November 14, 2012 - 04:53

    When will the RCMP get off their tuff and investigate Harper Cons and the NL Cons illegal racket with Muskrat? Penashue also tangled up in Muskrat scandal not just fed overspending and robocall scandal that Elections Canada have no teeth to Do anything about. Is their anyone in Canada that can investigate these crooks and send them to jail? I'm growing tired of white collar corporate crime in Canada and Newfoundland. Newfoundland worse than Canada/ Harper. And that's saying something. Hello Quebec who seem to be the only province doing anything about this. It has become rampant and has to stop. Do provincal police have to investigate in each province like Quebec? If so, the RNC cannot and probably will not in NL because they donated to the NL Tories for approx 10 years. So these crooks get away with this?

  • MIKE
    November 13, 2012 - 20:10

    So, Penashue blaims it on his manager, Bowers, and Bowers gets rewarded with a job with the CNLOPB. Gee, and we wonder why so few people bother to vote? Duh! Self-servants!

    • Jack
      November 14, 2012 - 08:25

      That's the point. Peter Penashue has no knowledge or concept about Agency Law. Since an agent acts on a person's behalf, such as Reginald Bowers acting on Peter Penashue's behalf, Peter Penashue is responsible for his actions, and those of the agent. Time for Peter Penashue to go back to university until he completes one or two Commercial Law courses.

  • Duffy
    November 13, 2012 - 19:57

    No Big Deal ? I guess you are right if you consider it is all right to buy an election. Several thousand from Pennecon Corp. and then several thousand from Lab Air and then several thousand overspent. I call that buying the election because the other canidate did not have that opportunity and money. What a waste to even vote! But again you are right it will all just go away as if nothing happened.

  • David
    November 13, 2012 - 17:09

    Whenever I'm truly "surprised" by something, I express an approriate reaction right away......not several weeks, and numerous, expensive PR crisis management sessions, later. Weird, I guess.

  • No Big Deal
    November 13, 2012 - 16:36

    Only 4000 in overspending? So what!! There are cost overruns with alot of stuff. This is only a drop in a bucket for a large campaign throughout Labrador. Bad donation? More like a donation was recorded in the business name instead of the owners, simple rookie mistake.