Peter Penashue resigns over ‘ineligible donations’

The Conservative quits cabinet and will run in a by-election

Peter Penashue is now neither the intergovernmental affairs minister, nor the MP for Labrador. According to a statement from Mr. Penashue, he has resigned both posts and will now run in a by-election.

Due to mistakes that were made by an inexperienced volunteer in filing the Elections Canada return from the last campaign, I appointed a new Official Agent to work with Elections Canada to make any needed amendments to my campaign return.

During the examination we became aware that there were ineligible donations accepted by the former Official Agent.

Although I was unaware of the inaccuracies in the return, I believe I must be accountable to the people who elected me and therefore I am stepping down as the Member of Parliament for Labrador and will seek re-election through a by-election. I will also be stepping down as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.

My record as Member of Parliament for Labrador and Minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government over the past two years is one that I am very proud of.

I have worked to secure federal support for the development of Muskrat Falls, which will lead to $1.9 billion for our economy and thousands of jobs for Labrador. I have also worked with government and private industry to increase internet speed in Labrador, and delivered federal funding to pave the Trans-Labrador Highway.

There is much more to do for the people of Labrador, including protecting our way of life. We have scrapped the long-gun registry despite the efforts of the NDP and Liberals to keep it, and now we must continue to fight to defend the seal hunt against the NDP and Liberal parliamentarians who want to ban it. I will also continue to lead the defence of the polar bear hunt, something that is very important to Labradorians.

In the by-election I will be asking the people of Labrador to re-elect me so that I can continue to deliver for Labrador.”

Questions about Mr. Penashue’s campaign were raised last year. He wrote a letter to his constituents in November, but previously ignored calls from the Liberals to resign.

In 2011, Mr. Penashue defeated the Liberal incumbent in Labrador, Todd Russell, by 79 votes.

Update 4:03pm. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office indicates that Transport Minister Denis Lebel will now also be the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. “I would like to thank Mr. Penashue for his service as Minister and to the people of Labrador,” says the Prime Minister. Mr. Penashue becomes the eighth minister to resign during Mr. Harper’s premiership. John Duncan resigned almost precisely a month ago.

Update 4:40pm. The CBC, which has been leading the coverage of Mr. Penashue’s campaign spending, summarizes the allegations against him.

Update 5:17pm. According to the Conservative party, the Penashue campaign “reimbursed the Receiver General for the ineligible contributions received,” totalling $30,000.

Update 5:27pm. Just spoke to Todd Russell, who is now the president of NunatuKavut. Here was his reaction.

I think we were all shocked, because it’s usually not the Conservative way to bend to pressure. They usually hunker down, rally around their people and try to protect them at all costs. So certainly this came as a bit of a shock.

But I think he done the right thing. I believe that he should have done the right thing many, many months ago. And I guess some of my people would have said he should have done the right thing during the election and all of this would never have happened.

But, you know, there is a certain amount of vindication in this for all the people in Labrador, for the electors in Labrador, who felt that their vote didn’t count, that there wasn’t a level playing field, who had their doubts about the fairness of this election. So, yes, there’s a certain amount of vindication in this for the people of Labrador.

Mr. Russell says he wil be taking the next few days to consider whether he will seek the Liberal nomination for the coming by-election.

Update 5:40pm. Alice Funke wonders if the NDP could win the by-election.

For one thing, the NDP has long coveted the riding, given their reasonably concentrated base of support in Labrador City in the west of the riding where they have occasionally won a provincial seat. The party has long aspired to find the right candidate to bridge that base with other potential pockets of support. And while it benefitted to a lesser extent than the Liberals from the 2008 “Anyone-but-Conservative” campaign, the NDP did at least move into second place with a solid 20% of the vote in that election, and unlike the Liberals were able to maintain their vote share in 2011. For another thing, the provincial Liberals are not the party benefitting from PC premier Kathy Dunderdale’s mid-term unpopularity on the provincial scene, the NDP is – topping the provincial polls for the first time in history.

Update 6:16pm. Meanwhile, Mr. Penashue’s former campaign manager, who was appointed to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, has resigned.

Update 8:43pm. A statement from interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.

“It is unfortunate that it has taken this long for Peter Penashue and the Conservative government to assume responsibility for what were clearly and undeniably illegal campaign donations. Even now, Mr. Penashue continues to blame an ‘inexperienced volunteer’ for this violation; yet this individual has worked on many election campaigns and has since received a federal government appointment.

While we are pleased that Mr. Penashue is now taking responsibility for his actions, he has still not explained to Canadians why he took so long to do so. One can’t help but wonder if Mr. Penashue was motivated by yesterday’s reports that Elections Canada is seeking charges to be laid in the Guelph election fraud case. Whether he made today’s decision individually or at the Prime Minister’s direction, Mr. Harper must still assume ultimate responsibility for what has transpired in Labrador. Leadership and accountability to Canadians demand nothing less.”

Dale Smith wraps up the reaction from the CBC.




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Peter Penashue resigns over ‘ineligible donations’

  1. Inexperienced volunteer? The dude the government gave patronage job to afterwords?

    • That’s the yard sick for accountability in this govt….had he not made that little “mistake” he would now be getting a better patronage position…price paid,lesson learned eh.

  2. It’s so bogus that he will be allowed by Elections Canada to run again, instead of face charges for the illegal campaign spending and contributions.

    • I’m surprised he’s running again, don’t Cons who break Election Laws usually go straight to the Senate?

      • Only if they don’t know where they reside.

      • I think the Senate comes after you LOSE an election.

        • mea culpa

  3. Also, I believe the last time this happened was when Sheila Copps resigned in 1996 over the broken promise on the GST. She ran in, and subsequently won, a by-election six weeks later. Granted Copps was a much bigger name at the time than Penashue is now, but it will still be interesting to see how quickly the Prime Minister calls a by-election.

    • This is totally different. Penashue was elected because of fraud; he overspent the legal limit by 21%. The overspending allowed him to visit every little hamlet in his riding (which can only be done by plane and at great cost), something his rival could not do because he followed the rules. In the end, Penashue won by 79 votes, He would have never won had he not spent that much money.

      Sheila Copps resigned because she said she would if Chretien did not cancel the GST. There was no fraud and the GST decision was not even hers. I am shocked though that Penashue will be allowed to run again. What is the incentive for not breaking the law?

      • Sheila Copps had to be publicly pressured into fulfilling that particular campaign promise. Initially she and Chretien treated it as something of a joke. It also surprised some folks (like me) that she (eventually) took her promise to resign as a promise to resign *and run in a by-election* (there was no mention of that when she made the promise).

        Not to take any heat off of Penashue, but Copps was not the saint in that affair that one might think from above.

        • Still, not breaking the law is a pretty big difference between the two.

          • Can’t argue with that.

      • Fair points. Was only really mentioning it in the context for how quickly the by-election was called.

      • His rival would have been spending the last X number of years travelling through all those communities as their MP though. This is why it’s so hard to beat an incumbent in a remote riding like that. Penashue was only nominated at the very last minute, and would not have had a chance to travel in pre-election. Not defending the practice – just pointing out some of the context.

        • May be, but Penashue was not an unknown in Labrador. He was Grand Chief of the Innu nation for a long time and he was involved in all sorts of negotiations with governments of all kinds and with the private sector. So he traveled through the riding too at someone else’s expense for probably a longer time than the incumbent.

  4. We waste so much time on this stuff.

  5. Unlike Sheila Copps, this is hardly a riding that Penashue can be expected to win, at least not easily.

    • So we should be on the look out for dirty tricks, I guess?

      • “This is elections Canada. Your polling station has been moved from the local school to the back of a polar bear 600 or so km to the NorthEast of here. Polls close in 20 minutes.”

        • Dam them and their sophisticated voter suppression schemes!

  6. Does quitting and running again mean he doesn’t have to face charges and/or pay back the money? It’s magical!

    • Cons seem to have their own criminal justice system.

  7. Why now? Because he recently learned charges are pending and he hears the Mounties knocking at the door?

      • Ah, Conservative MMs and the new tough justice system at work for Canadians eh.

        Just plead to a lesser charge and walk out the door and straight into an election campaign.Sweet. Let’s hope his constituents aren’t as forgiving.

  8. He deserves a bit of credit for admitting a wrongdoing – something the CPC has generally avoided to a comical extent. I hope whatever penalty elections Canada finds appropriate is quickly meted out and complied with.

    • For the record, he admitted that someone else did the wrong-doing. But I suppose that’s as close as you can get with them. But it’s really more Hea Culpa than Mea Culpa.

      • strong point.

  9. And whaddya know: Penashue’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs was Chris Crawford, the Conservative staffer in charge of the CIMS database in Guelph that “Pierre Poutine” used. Then the CIMS lists just went “missing.” You just can’t make this stuff up!

    • Resignations won’t curtail any careers. They’ll just get appointed to the Senate.

  10. In a just world, del Mastro would at least be feeling nervous today.

    • I think that del Mastro trembles 24/7. Trembles, sweats and fumbles, with furrowed brow.

  11. Oh well. At least it was fraud and not robo calls got him in. That should be a relief to all. I guess it must be hard to convince voters their polling station has moved in a place like Labrador?

  12. Technical (?) question: How would this have unfolded behind the scenes? Did Harper ask him to resign (even in an unofficial way)? Was it done unilaterally by Penashue?

    Editorial comment: Cheers for stepping up to the plate and resigning. Boos to throwing your ‘inexperienced staffer’ under the bus in doing so. Regardless, makes you wonder how a guy who can’t even manage an local election campaign deserves a cabinet post.

    • Regardless, makes you wonder how a guy who can’t even manage an local election campaign deserves a cabinet post.

      Have you seen the rest of Cabinet?

      • At least they could manage a local election campaign. There’s nobody else in hot water, is there?

        Nawwwwww.

  13. Conservatives, 2006 – 2013 (7 years). # of cabmins to resign under ethical/scandal concerns: 5 (Bernier, Duncan, Guergis, Oda, Penashue)

    Liberals, 1993-2006 (13 years). # of cabmins to resign under ethical/scandal concerns: 4 (Sgro, Eggleton, Scott, Maccauley)

    Source:
    http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Compilations/FederalGovernment/MinisterialResignations.aspx

    So Conservative cabinet ministers resign at more than double the rate of the previous Liberal government.

    Conservatives least accountable government ever? Enjoy your narrative.

    • “Conservatives least accountable government ever?”

      Perhaps. But more likely, just bereft of ethics.

    • Not very skilled at doing some comparables. What you should have done is to take 7 years for each government and see how many resigned over 7 years. Otherwise your comparison is not worth anything.

    • Or Conservatives are twice as crooked? There’s at least 3 or 4 more should be out on their ass too from the CPC. Course that Chretien list should have been a bit longer too.

    • I actually appreciate that point.

      What I’d LOVE, though, is a government where there’s NO resignations/firings because they’re not incompetent/corrupt.

      Impossible, I know, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

      • Well, there’s always Obama’s government. They’re incompetent and corrupt as hell, but no one ever resigns because there is literally nothing a Democrat can do that will cause the media to report negatively on it aggressively enough to pressure a resignation.

        Something to look forward to here once JT and the Liberals are returned to power.

        • No more incompetent than the Bush gov’t it replaced. Which speaks to the point I’m making… incompetence and corruption can exist anywhere on the political spectrum. As far as the media bias bellyaching… I’ll leave you to that narrative.

  14. so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu

  15. That should read “where they have occasionally won a PROVINCIAL seat”, not a providing one (whatever in the heck that meant!!). Thanks for the citation, Aaron.

    • Thanks for the fix-up!

  16. Next up: Peter van Loan del Mastro! and his brotherly donation scheme.

    • Don’t you mean Del Mastro?

      • Yes I do. Oh my God, they’re all merging together in my brain. Help.

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