© — Telegram file photo
Peter Penashue says he has no regrets for withholding federal funding from a couple of Newfoundland projects in order
to secure provincial dollars for paving the Trans-Labrador Highway. Penashue cited poor relations between Newfoundland and Labrador, in terms of resource sharing, as justification for his tactic.
According to Penashue, in an interview with The Labradorian, he withheld funding for two projects on the island, but would not say what they were or which departments were involved.
“Well that’s not important. … What’s important is that I represented the interests of Labrador,” Penashue said when asked what the two projects were.
Penashue did say, however, “there was a significant amount of dollars involved” in those two projects.
Penashue claims that if he didn’t take drastic measures to secure the funding the road between Goose Bay and Red Bay wouldn’t have been paved until after 2015.
“I did what I did because I’m elected from Labrador and I represent Labrador. I want to make sure my constituents share in the federal resources that are transferred to the province,” said Penashue.
“The original plan (by the province) was that the road wouldn’t be paved until after 2015 I think was their original plan. … I’ve been elected by Labrador to represent Labrador interests and I’ve done that and I make no apologies for that. … Nobody likes to take drastic actions, but in this case it was important.”
Penashue believes that he was justified in holding out on the Newfoundland projects, because Labrador is not allotted a good enough share of its own resources, from the provincial government.
“Absolutely, you talk to anybody on the street they will tell you that Labrador … generates a significant amount of revenue. … You’re damn right we’re not getting our fair share,” said Penashue.
“There’s a significant amount of resources that come out of Labrador. We are major producers of the economy and we should be sharing in the wealth of Labrador. One of those contributions has to be fixing up infrastructure such as paving the road between here and Red Bay.”
On top of being Labrador’s former MP, Penashue was also minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for this region. Many have criticized Penashue for seemingly holding one part of the region hostage in order to get money for Labrador. But Penashue believes that it’s his main duty to represent Labradorians.
“Politics is simple when you come down to it,” says Penashue. “People send their politicians to Ottawa to represent them and to represent their interests. Labradorians sent me to Ottawa to represent their interests and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
When asked if he was worried that his tactic might damage any unification of Newfoundland and Labrador as a province, Penashue responded, with a smile: “I hope you’re not telling me that relations between Newfoundland and Labrador are excellent.”
Penashue also blasted Liberal candidate Yvonne Jones for her criticism of his tactics. And accused her of looking out for Newfoundland interests instead of Labrador’s.
“I was quite curious today. I heard that Yvonne was on VOCM and didn’t support or appreciate my tactic, and that’s quite telling of her to not be supporting my success,” says Penashue. “… Obviously she’s more interested in considering Newfoundland interests.”
Despite the criticisms Penashue is facing, he is confident that many Labradorians agree with what he did in order to secure provincial dollars for the TLH.
“I just came from door to door (campaigning) and people tell me that they appreciate the stance that I’ve took, and it’s about time someone looked after the interests of Labrador,” said Penashue.
“Labradorians (are) absolutely convinced that they don’t share in the resource wealth of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
“I never felt Labrador was getting its fair share.”