One byelection won't be enough

Michael
Michael Johansen
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In the flurry of news about our MP resigning from Parliament because of all the money he shouldn’t have gotten and spent during the campaign that sent him to Ottawa, I must have missed when the prime minister dropped the writ for a Labrador byelection.

Clearly the date has been decided, but it remains publicly elusive. Ex-Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue, at any rate, knows it. He lost no time after announcing he would seek re-election before starting his re-election campaign. Penashue has been buying full-page newspaper ads to tout his achievements, and he opened a sparkling new website to ask for financial donations.

If the website is anything to go by, Labrador’s voters are already getting Conservative campaign workers knocking at their doors. The website leaves no doubt that the byelection has started and Penashue’s erstwhile supporters can use it not only to sign up to be one of those workers, but they can also arrange to get lawn signs and even register as committed voters: full names, addresses and telephone numbers required.

The link under the big red button marked “Donate Now” takes the browser away from a photo of a serious Peter Penashue in front of a gloomy shoreline and presents an almost-smiling Stephen Harper, his gaze averted, striding out of an early fall forest — which suggests the money will safely bypass the local candidate and go straight to the prime minister.

Since the byelection is underway with Penashue as the only unofficially official candidate so far (the only other candidate to date hasn’t yet caught up and is still officially unofficial), that means Penashue is all alone on the hustings and for now must campaign on his record all by himself.

With no opponents for the Conservatives to slag, for now the debate is on merits alone.

It’s those that Penashue has itemized in print and in pixels. He lays claim to six achievements as MP, examples of what he calls “Delivering for Labrador.” He takes credit for stringing fibre-optic lines into the region, for paving the Trans-Labrador Highway and for getting new dams built on the Churchill River. He points out that he supports people who hunt seals and polar bears and that he was also involved in erasing the registry of long guns.

However, Penashue might be selling himself short. He doesn’t mention how well he did at his job as minister for Intergovernmental Affairs where he presented medals and announced funding on behalf of other cabinet ministers. Oddly, those announcements always seemed to bring him east, most often to Newfoundland and Labrador where, last summer and fall alone, he gave millions of other departments’ dollars to universities, corporations, memorial projects and some arts groups.

These announcements petered out (so to speak) when Penashue’s campaign overspending (and related topics) became big nationwide news, leading to his frequently demanded, but long belated, resignation. It turns out he had one last thing to do before leaving Ottawa (perhaps for good) and that was to make sure he’d have a fast Internet connection waiting for him at home in Sheshatshiu — or at least the promise of it.

Talk from an anonymous Conservative Party source (officially

or unofficially leaked) says the Labrador byelection could happen as early as mid-May, which would likely be before Penashue can reasonably get cleared of any wrong-doing by Elections Canada, if that’s at all possible. That means when voters ask him if he cheated during the last election, as the incumbent he defeated has accused, he can keep blaming his one-time agent for all the mistakes.

Unfortunately, there’s a bigger issue here than the re-election of one nearly disgraced politician. What’s more important is how, once again, the Conservative party under Stephen Harper is using every available subterfuge to undermine the Canadian electoral system. Instead of answering numerous accusations of malfeasance, they hide from them with more electioneering trickery, hoping to get the vote out of the way before the whole truth emerges. They’ll do whatever they can to hold onto Labrador, short of … well, that remains to be seen.

Essentially, a single byelection isn’t enough. It’s time for Stephen Harper himself to seek a new mandate, to call for a general election.

 

Michael Johansen is a writer

living in Labrador.

Organizations: Conservatives, Trans-Labrador Highway, Intergovernmental Affairs Conservative Party Elections Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Churchill River Sheshatshiu

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Recent comments

  • a business man
    March 26, 2013 - 09:49

    The author is wrong. A general election should not be called. Harper won a commanding MAJORITY in the last election. There is no reason for him call an election now. He has noting to gain strategically. He has all the power and I am proud to be one of the voters that gave him his majority. The EI changes, the CETA....these are all things that are good for me. I went door knocking for the Conservatives last election and I will be doing the same because I want the party that serves my interests to win.

  • Jay
    March 24, 2013 - 19:32

    We certainly don't need a general election. Do you really think that anybody in the rest of Canada sees any significance to this bye-election. The Liberals will win. Not because of any wrong-doing by the Conservative, but because it's a safe Liberal seat. Only Todd Russell could have lost that seat for the Liberals in the last election.

  • I am quite confident Dianne we have exhausted the Honey Treatment.
    March 24, 2013 - 14:58

    Dianne how do you decipher what is Honey and Vinegar treatment? I do believe we have exhuasted the Honey treatmen on Ottawa. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador's politicians down through the past 64 years have given away every natural resource that we have so far developed to other parts of Canada and the World so that they can keep their economies percolating. For insance we gave our coveted "Fish Resource" to Ottawa to maintain and sustain for us and it turned around and used it as the conducter to generate International Trade for Canada's Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors. I will list a few of those resources for you. The Iron Ore Resource of which our province produces 93% of all that ore that is produced in Canada has been sent out in the raw state so that Canada's Automobile Manufacturing Industry could flourish. Our province's Nickel Ore, the largest find in the World was appointed to Sudbury, Ontario and Thompson, Manitoba for a 30 years period so that these two cities could keep their economyies going and keep their workers employed. Our Hydroelectric Energy, namely the Upper Churchill, the largest in the World at the time, produces 5500 megat watts of energy and has since 1969, was appointed to Quebec Hydro and our Oil is shipped out in the unprocessed state to the United States. There are other commodities as well, but those alone represent Tens of Billions of dollars leaving our province annually for other locations to percolate while our own economy didn't materialize and it died on the economic vine, simply because our natural resources were shipped out in the raw state. The politicians who represented Newfoundland and Labrador over the past 64 years should have been brought to the International Court at Hague to be tried for economic genocide. Dianne I am not so stupid as to think this is not the way that the Ottawa government wanted Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources to be dispensed so as to create a vibrant Central Canada economy with lots of immigrants to boost its population . Everything has flourished from Nova Scotia to Manitoba from the benefits of our raw resources, and our fish resource has enabled the Agriculture Industry to flourish right across Canada. Besides, even though, we are very strategically important and proved ourselves in the Second World War because of our strategic location in Canada, WE DON'T even have a Military or Naval base here. If we did it could represent a Multi-Million dollar economy for our province.

  • Robert Viera
    March 24, 2013 - 11:22

    Excellent article, but I think we ought to wait for the outcome of Elections Canada's investigations into 'electioneering trickery' in the last election before we have another general election.

  • John Thompson
    March 24, 2013 - 10:50

    Yes, let's be nice to the PM while he dismantles the democratic process. He's just flesh and blood 'Diane' he don't walk on water and he is not beyond criticism.

  • The politicians who represented Newfoundland and Labrador over the past sixty-four years should be carted off to the International Court at the Hague to be be tried for economic genocide.
    March 24, 2013 - 08:32

    Dianne how do you decipher what is Honey and Vinegar treatment? The province of Newfoundland and Labrador's politicians down through the past 64 years have given away every natural resource that we have so far developed to other parts of Canada and the World so that they can keep their economies percolating. For insance we gave our coveted "Fish Resource" to Ottawa to maintain and sustain for us and it turned around and used it as the conducter to generate International Trade for Canada's Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors. I will list a few of those resources for you. The Iron Ore Resource of which our province produces 93% of all that ore that is produced in Canada has been sent out in the raw state so that Canada's Automobile Manufacturing Industry could flourish. Our province's Nickel Ore, the largest find in the World was appointed to Sudbury, Ontario and Thompson, Manitoba for a 30 years period so that these two cities could keep their economyies going and keep their workers employed. Our Hydroelectric Energy, namely the Upper Churchill, the largest in the World at the time, produces 5500 megat watts of energy and has since 1969, was appointed to Quebec Hydro and our Oil is shipped out in the unprocessed state to the United States. There are other commodities as well, but those alone represent Tens of Billions of dollars leaving our province annually for other locations to percolate while our own economy didn't materialize and it died on the economic vine, simply because our natural resources were shipped out in the raw state. The politicians who represented Newfoundland and Labrador over the past 64 years should have been brought to the International Court at Hague to be tried for economic genocide. Dianne I am not so stupid as to think this is not the way that the Ottawa government wanted Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources to be dispensed so as to create a vibrant Central Canada economy with lots of immigrants to boost its population . Everything has flourished from Nova Scotia to Manitoba from the benefits of our raw resources, and our fish resource has enabled the Agriculture Industry to flourish right across Canada. Besides, even though, we are very strategically important and proved ourselves in the Second World War because of our strategic location in Canada, WE DON'T even have a Military or Naval base here. If we did it could represent a Multi-Million dollar economy for our province.

  • Jay
    March 23, 2013 - 18:19

    "Call a general election," says the great prophet of the north. What a joke. Do you really thnk that the politicians and voters in the rest of Canada give two hoots about a seat in Labrador,. Of course the Liberals will win. It's been a safe seat for them since Confederation. Only a moron like Todd Russell could have lost it in the first place. All the win means is that the Liberals have won back their safe seat. Anybody who seriously tries to read anything more into it than that is delusional .

  • Diane
    March 23, 2013 - 09:47

    I for one do not want another general election! One thing we have to realize here in NL is that our opinions are not necessarily followed by others around the country! It's kinda funny if you look at it! We treat Harper like a dog and then expect him to treat us like kings! We are getting what we voted for...which was a few MP's who have no say at all. Ask anyone in other countries and they commend Harper for bringing us through the latest recession! Oh yeah and he is pretty popular in the West too...and Ontario is looking pretty good too. Just a reminder to people in this province...You get more with HONEY than VINEGAR!

    • Corporate Psycho
      March 24, 2013 - 15:01

      Speak for yourself Diane. Go back to the mainland.

    • Chris
      March 24, 2013 - 20:34

      " Ask anyone in other countries and they commend Harper for bringing us through the latest recession!"...In your dreams Diane. Canada weathered the recession thanks to Paul Martin. When Martin was the Minister of Finance the five major Canadian Banks wanted to merge with major US banks, their rationale being 'not big enough to compete on world markets' and wanted to merge to become more competitive. Paul Martin refused to allow this to happen. This action enabled Canadian Banks to survive the near global economic disaster. Harpo had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with it. And "he (Harper) is pretty popular in the West too". By the West, I presume you mean Alberta. I live in BC (the real West), and I can tell you Harper will be toast, in this province, in the next federal election, just like the BC Liberals.

    • a business man
      March 26, 2013 - 10:08

      Honestly, no individual has the right to tell another what to think or where do go. Dianne is entitled to her opinion, no matter if it is right or wrong. Telling her to go to the mainland is unacceptable and pointless. She can stay where she is and vote as she wishes. So can I. My most successful business interests are in Ontario and Alberta. So for me, Ontario and Alberta are more important to me than is Newfoundland. That said, I am a Newfoundland citizen, born and raised, and I have the right to vote as I see fit. When voting, I do not vote for the best interests of Canada, and I do not vote for the best interests of Newfoundland. I cast my ballot for ME - for the party with the platform that serves my interests. To me, Ontario and Alberta are far more important than Newfoundland, so I cast my vote based on what is best for Ontario and Alberta. Like it or not, I have the right to do so. I am happy that Newfoundland and Labrador's politicians through the past 64 years have given away every natural resource that Newfoundland has developed to other parts of Canada and the World so that they can keep their economies percolating. That is what I want from a provincial government, as a taxpayer and citizen. The economies of central Canada, and the USA, and Europe are far more important to me than is the economy of Newfoundland. I am happy that Newfoundland gave away the fish, the iron ore, the nickel ore, and the hydro electricity. I am happy that those resources were shipped out in the raw state because it contributed to the development of the economies that are more important to ME. However, none of this is economic genocide, rather, it is democracy. The reality is that Newfoundland is so few voters that the views of Newfoundlanders really make no difference on the federal stage. In short, I am happy with this government and happy with the use of Newfoundland's resources. BUT before someone tells me to leave the province, I will reiterate that I am a taxpayer, citizen and voter, and I am merely expressing my opinion in accordance with my democratic rights. I am allowed to want Ontario and Alberta to thrive while Newfoundland dies. That is my right, no matter who agrees or disagrees. In conclusion, I agree with Dianne's post below, and I completely support her right, and everyone's right to think and support whatever they want.