Penashue’s silence speaks volumes

Pam Frampton
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“This House cannot function without an open, accountable, and independent ethics process; and the molestation of that process by the majority is an abuse of power that cannot stand.”

— U.S. Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

I didn’t really expect Peter Penashue to live up to the “honourable” part of his job title and resign this week, but I didn’t expect him to do what he did either.

Call me naive, but when someone says they won’t discuss campaign spending irregularities with the national media because they want to speak directly to their constituents, I actually expect them to speak to their constituents.

Instead, the beleaguered Labrador MP stuck to his duck-and-run strategy, as he has ever since he was elected by a slim margin in 2011.

In January — in a sign of things to come — he dodged protesters in front of the Canadian Coast Guard base in St. John’s who were hoping to talk to him about the impending closure of the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre.

Now, when his election campaign finances get raised in the House of Commons, other Conservative MPs stand to speak for him, even when he’s in the House himself.

This week, as people in his riding were asking questions, he was refusing to be held accountable and to provide the answers the public wants. Instead, he issued news releases about Queen’s Jubilee Medals and made funding announcements.

Medals and money are nice, of course, but his election controversy has become a national news story and it seems a tad coincidental that at a time when reporters were hot on his heels, he was in Port Hope Simpson, where cellphone reception is limited.

His only acknowledgement of his constituents’ concerns came in a letter posted on his website, in which he professed his surprise and disappointment that spending issues have come to light.

“No one is more surprised than I am at the allegations that have arisen since the campaign,” he wrote. “No one is more disappointed.”

Surprise? Disappointment? That’s the public’s purview here, Mr. Minister.

People are surprised that you have not owned up to the fact that your whole election campaign has been cast under a cloud. People are disappointed that you have not accepted any responsibility.

To place the blame squarely on the shoulders of your official agent — blame he has said publicly he is unwilling to accept — is hardly the sign of political leadership.

When in doubt, blame the lackeys, it seems, even when the lackey in this case has incredible credentials.

I’m no politician, but I can follow simple instructions and I figure Penashue and his campaign team could too.

Elections Canada rules are pretty straightforward, and contain such admonishments as these:

“Do not accept contributions from ineligible sources (e.g. foreign sources, corporations, trade unions and unregistered associations);

“Do not accept contributions that exceed an individual’s contribution limits.”

Sounds simple enough.

And yet, somehow, mysteriously, and without anyone’s knowledge, thousands of dollars’ worth of flights taken by Penashue were written off by Provincial Airlines (sounds like a donation from a corporation to me), he exceeded his spending limit by thousands and he accepted a donation from a corporation just days after he beat Liberal incumbent Todd Russell by 79 votes.

In a CBC News story by reporter Laura Payton on Nov. 1, Penashue’s spokesman said the campaign simply would not accept corporate donations.

And yet accept them it did.

Penashue has one ace up his sleeve, though. He’s a cabinet minister in a government where you can do just about whatever you please and not face any consequences.

Peter MacKay using search and rescue equipment for personal travel? No problem.

Bev Oda wasting taxpayers’ dollars on limos and luxury suites? Forget about it.

Jason Kenney’s office padding out a citizenship ceremony with staff posing as new Canadians? Anything goes.

Dean del Maestro being investigated for alleged election overspending? What the heck.

Del Maestro, incidentally, is parliamentary secretary to both the prime minister and the intergovernmental affairs minister — Peter Penashue.

The sad truth is, if the PM turfed out every Conservative MP who acted unethically, he’d no longer have a majority government.

Penashue lamented this week that he was treated rudely by the Liberals and the NDP in the House of Commons.

Does he actually expect political opponents not to pounce on a weakened rival? Now who’s being naive?

If Penashue wants to lay claim to being honourable, there’s only one thing to do: resign.

His constituents deserve better and so do all Canadians.

And he shouldn’t bother re-entering politics until he’s willing to win the race fair and square.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Canadian Coast Guard, House of Commons, Conservative MPs Elections Canada Provincial Airlines CBC News NDP House of Commons.Does

Geographic location: U.S., Port Hope Simpson

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Recent comments

  • Ginn
    November 20, 2012 - 09:24

    Pam should herself do a recount, what amount of conservative MPs have been found guilty of unethical practices? Any at all? and what is the size of the current majority? your throwaway comment about a minority government, occurring after losing members who were unethical, is poorly researched or deliberately misleading. The current government is squeaky clean compared to previous majorities! I'm concerned by the amount of baseless smears promulgated by journalists with their own political agenda. Pam appears to promote hers.

  • John Klein
    November 19, 2012 - 13:00

    Excellent editorial. It sums up how our federal government is corrupt and unaccountable. It's not a difference of political opinion we're talking about, it's a matter of laws being broken and Conservatives not accepting that we're a country ruled by laws instead of by Stephen Harper. I'm sharing this link far and wide, because more Canadians need to see what's going on, and how people like Peter FromUpAway are okay with election crimes so long as their boy wins.

  • Herb Morrison
    November 19, 2012 - 09:24

    If I were one of Mr. Penashue’s constituents, I would be asking questions and looking for answers, with regard to the supposedly well-documented allegations being levelled against him relevant to overspending during the last Federal Election Campaign. I would expect that Mr Penashue would provide those answers, in person, to both myself and other constituents at a public meeting held in the constituency in question. In my opinion, by virtue of the facts that Mr. Penashue has apparently not only decided against explaining himself to his Constituents in person ) but has also, at least according to a recent news report, attempted to place both accountability and responsibility for documented incidents of overspending, during -the last Federal Election Campaign, on someone else’s shoulders, who could blame either Mr. Penashue’s political rivals, his constituents, or the electorate, in general, if they either call on Mr Penashue to, at the very least, display some semblance of a willingness to be accountable, or, in a worse case scenario, deem it necessary to call for Mr. Penashue’s political head. The question I would be asking myself at this point, if I were one of Mr. Penashue’s constituents would be; given the manner in which Mr. Penashue has handled himself while under fire in the context of the present situation, in which he finds himself embroiled, does Mr. Penashue have what it takes to effectively represent the interests of his Constituents in the House of Commons or any other public venue, for that matter?

  • Skeptical Cynic
    November 17, 2012 - 18:38

    I see Peter Fromupway is still hanging around like a bad smell. Like David told you the other day... go back to the political scumhole you came from.

  • voter
    November 17, 2012 - 14:03

    typical liberal media reporting. bash the conservatives for everything. since when did the liberals/ndp grow wings? you mentioned peter mckay using helicopter for personel use, but forgot liberal scott simms did the same thing with a trip to fogo. you mentioned bev oda, but not a whisper, not a whimper about the liberals who stole millions from us through adscam, so keep on bashing pam. come the election in 2015 mr. harper will win another majority government.

  • Pierre Neary
    November 17, 2012 - 09:04

    Pam, maybe Pennecon's "internal" investigation will clear everything up.

  • Peter FromUpAway
    November 17, 2012 - 08:51

    There are cost overruns in any project. When dealing with a large campaign through Labrador, a few thousand that he over spent is nothing but a drop in the bucket. With a fast pased camapaign run by rookies and volunteers, harmless mistakes happen. I am sure nothing wrong was done with knowledge. All these complains are just coming from the Liberal Party (backed by the NDP) throwing a temper tanturm like children becuase they lost the election. They need to figure out that the voters haev the final say, the voters will choose who ever they want, and the cost of a few extra signs or campaign one flight in Labrador does not make any difference to the voters.

    • Joe
      November 17, 2012 - 16:03

      Peter Get a spell checker. Credibilty will improve

    • Marty
      November 17, 2012 - 21:12

      Peterfrompaway - "harmless mistakes" "nothing wrong was done", haha good one! Wake up and smell the coffee bye.