Peter Penashue, I do believe, missed his true calling. He should have been a consultant.
After all, there are consulting firms throughout the world that make a fortune helping disgraced athletes, entertainers and, yes, politicians, crawl back into the good graces of the public, usually after a genuflection of apology and a time of penance.
But Our Man From the Labrador could provide those firms of spin-doctors with a unique take, based on first hand experience, on how to shed the cloak of ignominy in a flash, in a hurry, in the blink of an eye.
Have you screwed up immensely, made a complete arse out of yourself, let down your colleagues and supporters and acted in a rather pitiful fashion? Well, ladies and gentlemen of the consulting business, I give you Peter Penashue: he’ll show your clients how to just shamelessly plow ahead and take gall to a new level.
As that famous war cry would have it: damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!
If you’re in doo-doo, merely quit your position and immediately and simply inform your employers you want to return to your old position. Presto! Problem solved.
Penashue’s tale would actually prompt consultants in the spin business to shake their heads in disbelief.
But it happened, is happening, right here in our own backyard.
Now, who knows at this point whether Penashue really believes there’s nothing ethically wrong with running in a byelection caused by his own questionable behaviour?
Or — and I’ll try and not to be unkind here — that he is so cerebrally challenged that he doesn’t actually grasp the magnitude of the gall, the arrogance, that it takes to resign as an MP and cabinet minister under troubled circumstances (a move that would have been described by some as honourable had it taken place months ago) and in the same breath, in the same press release, announce he’ll be on the ballot paper when the people of Labrador (who must feel at this point like manipulated fools) decide on his replacement?
Another possibility, of course, is that he always does exactly what he’s told to do, that his shocking decision last week was made under orders from above, that he’s the consummate “yes man,” that he’s a lapdog for Stephen Harper, prepared to roll over, beg, fetch, do whatever it is the PM insists he has to do to continue to earn his sizable income.
“Here, Petey boy, here boy, come to Poppy Steve. Obey Petey, take your punishment, your little slap on the bum, admit you were a big bad boy, and we’ll get you back in the kennel in no time. OK? OK, Petey boy.”
When people in this province heard what Penashue did this past week, I’m sure the collective reaction was one of near mortification, knowing their man in Ottawa had become a Canadian laughing stock (what tremendous ammunition for “This Hour Has 22 Minutes”); and just about all of them were wishing he’d slip quietly back home to Labrador and resume his leadership of the Innu people, a job for which he was so justifiably lauded an eternity ago (or so it seems).
But maybe Penashue is banking on a bit of backlash here, that there’ll be pity for him in some circles, that there’ll emerge a sense that he’s being picked on, that he just has a difficult time explaining his actions to those media vultures and mean-spirited opposition MPs.
Well, Penashue brought this on himself; he was the one who took the plunge into politics — a profession in which dishonourable actions are not an oddity — and was therefore accountable for whatever unsavoury breakage of rules that may have occurred to help put him in Parliament.
And if you’re unable to properly articulate yourself to the press and, by extension, to your constituents and all Canadians, you shouldn’t be in the racket in the first place.
It would be a stretch to say Penashue was performing at even a slightly adequate level as Newfoundland’s representative in the cabinet (he must have had his predecessors, politicians like John Crosbie, crying in their cornflakes) even before the electioneering irregularities began to surface. We hardly heard a peep whenever the province needed and demanded a strong voice, especially during those cutbacks in search and rescue capability. He literally hid from the press when that issue raised its ugly head.
And then we find out he was helped into his seat by a series of moves now being investigated by those responsible for maintaining Canada’s election rules.
Penashue blames it all on an adviser. He knew nothing. But he still feels a resignation was in order, to bring about a byelection to clear the air, as if he were doing the democratic process a favour. What a guy, Mr. Speaker, the Tories have been suggesting.
One can only hope the voters are not that stunned.
And send him packing.
Right off to the consulting business.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.