Tricky questions

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It’s far too early to pass judgement, but it’s certainly not too soon to be asking questions about just what’s happening with the Innu Development

Limited Partnership (IDLP) in Labrador.

Earlier this week, the CBC reported that the head of the development partnership, CEO Paul Rich, was paid $348,427 in 2011, and was scheduled to be paid $658,847 this year. Rich is no longer the CEO.

As well, limited financial details released about the corporation suggest that board members were paid as much as $10,000 per meeting to attend board meetings.

As CBC also reported, the IDLP provided Labrador Conservative MP and cabinet minister Peter Penashue with a $25,000 loan to help finance his campaign. Elections Canada documentation says the funds were in the form of an interest-free loan, but officials with Penashue’s office maintain that was a typo, and that the loan carries an interest rate of seven per cent.

The confusion has some interesting implications. The difference between an interest-free loan for $25,000 and a loan for the same amount at seven per cent equals a benefit of $1,750 a year, and that could put the development agency — and Penashue — in a sticky spot. Federal law banned corporate donations to federal campaigns in 2006, and even an individual Canadian can only donate a maximum of $1,100 a year to federal campaigns.

If there is an issue, Elections Canada could quickly sort it out by requesting the original signed loan documents from Penashue, along with any repayment schedule.

The controversy is growing in other directions as well. A board member with the Innu Nation, Jeremy Andrew, has asked for an RCMP investigation into the IDLP’s operations, and on Wednesday, the Innu Nation voted to stop sending mining royalties to the IDLP.

The IDLP is a private corporation. Its website describes its mission like this: “While respecting Innu rights, territory and culture, Innu Development Limited Partnership represents the economic interests of the Mushuau and Sheshatshiu Innu communities by creating and managing equity through ownerships and partnerships in strategic industries; by creating opportunities for employment and Innu private businesses; and by encouraging the development of Innu economic capacity through training and education.”

The company uses money from a royalty-based trust fund to invest in businesses and to provide for community support. What’s hard to understand is how its CEO is suddenly among the most highly paid executives in the province, making more money than Nalcor’s CEO Ed Martin.

That’s a question that apparently bothers some among the Innu as well. After a protest in front of the IDLP’s offices, its doors were nailed shut.

There may well be answers to the variety of questions being raised about the company, its role and its finances.

They are certainly questions that have to be properly — and quickly — answered. And if Andrew is right and there should be a police investigation, then so be it.

Organizations: Innu Development Limited Partnership, CBC, Elections Canada Labrador Conservative MP RCMP

Geographic location: Labrador.Earlier

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