With the case of Conservative MP Peter Penashue’s overspending, donation irregularities and airline write-offs one must ask as disdainful as it is, was he being purposely deceptive or was he just plain ignorant of the rules? In response to the allegations before him, Penashue hid away from the opposition and media and later reappeared in his home province where he released an online cop-out where he blamed his official agent for any mistakes.
Penashue’s official agent for the 2011 campaign was Reg Bowers who responded to Elections Canada at one point by stating, “Given the circumstances, record keeping and budgeting did not get the top priority. In the beginning we had very limited funds, we couldn’t get internet connection and, as mentioned, very limited help so there was a lot of wasted time running back and forth using my own computer and resources. We had to make the most of what we had and what we knew and I got advice wherever possible.”
In response to being blamed by Penashue, Bowers stated, “When it left my desk, it was under the cap.”
Bowers was removed as official agent for Penashue after being replaced by the Conservative Party’s chief financial officer. For his work Reg Bowers was rewarded with a golden position as a federal appointee on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.
So with the overspending and irregularities in his electoral campaign return, including possible corporate donations, the question of deception or ignorance is a valid one. Penashue seems content to blame the official agent yet every single candidate for election in Canada must go through the same procedures in order to run for office and at the end for their candidate electoral campaign return. Penashue ran for the Conservative Party of Canada – the same party that likes to brag about their deep pockets and top-notch campaign team, yet this combo failed to stay within the rules and when caught out – flail about with blame.
So how is that candidates for the parties with no seats like the Christian Heritage Party or the Canadian Action Party who neither have deep pockets or election winning campaign strategists, managed to fill out their forms correctly and stay within the rules, but Penashue could not? They also had rookie official agents and candidates, and also had to wade through the same Elections Canada literature, regulations and forms – but with one glaring difference – they appear to have got it right and stayed within the rules.
Penashue should also explain how and why he signed his name to the following without knowing that everything was correct and within the rules:
Elections Canada form EC 20120 (all candidates must sign this declaration)
I hereby solemnly declare that to the best of my knowledge and belief:
– the information contained in this return is correct;
– all election expenses in respect of the conduct or management of the election have been properly recorded;
– no money, goods or services have been provided by way of loan, advance, deposit, contribution or gift during the election, except as appears in this return; and
– no other person or entity has, on behalf of the candidate made any payment or given, promised or offered any reward, office, employment or valuable consideration or incurred any liability on account of or in respect of the conduct or management of the election, except as specified in this return.
I make this solemn declaration conscientiously, believing it to be true and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act.
To all of this Penashue has managed to say, “I’m not quitting, I’m not quitting. It’s very important to me that my constituents understand the allegations and the comments being made.” We would all like to understand how Penashue signed his name to the EC 20120 declaration without knowing if it was correct or not. Someone wishing to take on such an important role as MP should ensure that anything they put their name to is above-board and factually correct. Is that too much to ask?
So if there was no deception intended, was it down to just ignorance of the rules? Outside of Parliament each of us is held to our actions and in our places of work if we managed to bungle something so important and then sign our name to it – most would be facing the unemployment line. The least we can do is hold our elected officials to that same standard. PM Harper thus far is standing by his man.
Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.