ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – If embattled federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue planned to update constituents Tuesday about his campaign overspending, it’s news to his Labrador staff.
“I don’t know anything about it,” said Agatha Ryland, an assistant in Penashue’s constituency office in L’Anse au Loup, N.L.
Reached by phone, Ryland said Penashue is travelling the remote Labrador coast handing out several Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals for community service and achievement.
Penashue’s spokesman Cory Hann could not be reached by email or cellphone, and there was no answer at the minister’s Ottawa office.
The Conservative MP for Labrador has blamed rookie mistakes for spending thousands of dollars over his legal limit during the 2011 election. He has been attacked for weeks in the House of Commons, accused of accepting free flights around his large riding along with a questionable donation from executives of a St. John’s construction company.
Last week in Ottawa, Penashue said he would update his constituents on Tuesday before offering any further explanation.
Hann has provided no details of that promised update, but said the minister is not planning to speak with reporters Tuesday.
Penashue’s surprise victory by just 79 votes over Liberal incumbent Todd Russell was the only Conservative win in the province.
Penashue has said he has no plans to step down despite calls from the opposition for a byelection and accusations that he “bought” the election.
The minister has also been under siege for travel expenses and the extent to which he has visited other parts of Canada in his cabinet role.
Public records show 79 per cent of Penashue’s ministerial travel has been in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, even though he’s the intergovernmental affairs minister responsible for managing federal relations with all provinces and territories.