With every day that passes, Peter Penashue’s resignation and the elections violations that led up to the resignation smell worse.
Originally, Penashue said he was resigning to allow the people to pass judgment on his work as a member of Parliament, and, in the process, he blamed all of the rule violations in his campaign on a single campaign worker.
Now, it appears that resignation is merely more stage-managing on the part of Penashue and the Conservative party: even before he resigned, new websites had been established and campaign advertising placed, signs that the federal Tories believe the adage that you can fool some of the people all the time.
And CBC News has reported that before the resignation, even with a new financial officer and after repaying tens of thousands of dollars, Penashue was warned that his new financial disclosures were not complete, and that if he did not update the file, he would not be allowed to sit or vote in the House of Commons.
The resignation is looking like a venture that the federal Conservative party is completely complicit in.
The Conservative Party, it turns out, supplied the money that was paid back to try and make up for the elections violations, more than $44,000. Not only that, but the Conservative party has already started an advertising campaign to convince voters to re-elect Penashue, even though a byelection hasn’t been called yet. (The early advertising campaign has the benefit of not counting against federal election spending limits, because the ads are appearing before the byelection is called.)
In the House of Commons, other Tories are glossing over Penashue’s elections violations and stressing a variety of things he is supposed to have delivered for Labrador — in essence, saying that the end justifies any means, even if those means fall outside the law.
This is a dark little charade: Penashue won by fewer than 80 votes in the last election, spending far more than was allowed on his campaign and accepting improper donations. Elections Canada might well still complete an investigation that would ban him from being able to run for federal politics for the next five years.
Yet it’s full speed ahead, at virtually any cost, for a party and a candidate whom seem unconcerned that their actions speak to a deep disregard for the basic procedures of running fair and honest elections in a democracy.
You could call it a kind of blind electoral pragmatism and claim that the Tories believe such machinations to be fair play in an already dirty game.
One thing is abundantly clear: after all this, and after all of the federal spending and support that’s bound to be brought to bear on this riding during the campaign, if Peter Penashue manages to get re-elected, there will be plenty of people inside the federal Tories who will claim it’s proof that voters don’t care about ethics or violations of the law.
And that would be a sad day indeed.