Peter Penashue – Deception or Ignorance?

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.

The Great Canadian Sellout

Like those nail-biting episodes of 24 where the clock is ticking down and there is a heated race to head off disaster, the nation of Canada finds itself in such a scenario. The mass media has all but ignored or barely mentioned the looming Great Canadian Sellout to communist China courtesy of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Not content with being the party that sold Canada up the river with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1989 after which the U.S. trade representative Clayton Yeutter bluntly stated, “We’ve signed a stunning new trade pact with Canada. The Canadians don’t even know what they have signed. In twenty years they will be sucked into the U.S. economy,” they are now upping the ante and selling Canada out to China.

Clayton Yeutter was exactly right, as the U.S. government had no intentions of removing dumping and anti-subsidy laws, and this was made abundantly evident over the years with such things as softwood lumber, wheat exports, PEI potatoes and other Canadian exports. It wasn’t bad enough that the Harper Conservatives sold Canada out with softwood lumber and allowed the American timber conglomerate to essentially steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Canada, the federal Conservatives are now poised to sign away even more in an utterly one-sided trade deal with China. But wait it gets better! This deal with China, the Canada-China Investment Treaty, or FIPA, will not be discussed in the House of Commons or any committee, it will simply be ratified by default come November 1, 2012. Unfortunately for Canadians, the sunshine that is disclosure and accountability will not be allowed to disinfect this looming disaster.

What is the purpose of electing MPs and having a House of Commons if binding trade deals are constructed and negotiated behind closed doors and become binding with no public oversight? Why is this government the antithesis of its own election campaign slogans of accountability and transparency? If this deal is such a boon to Canada than prove it to Canadians via our democratic institutions – don’t conduct meetings in secret then proceed to ratify FIPA by default.

So what’s in this sweetheart deal for Chinese investors (most of whom are state controlled)? Like NAFTA there are clauses contained that allow for damages to be awarded via ‘expectation of profits’. In layman’s terms this essentially means Chinese state investors can sue Canada via a system outside of Canadian control for just about anything they deem detrimental to their profit taking. For example, this binding trade deal overrides any municipal, provincial or even federal law or regulation that in any way impedes profits for Chinese investors. Simply put, Canadian-made laws and regulations will be tossed out the window in favour of Chinese investors. And just for good measure, the arbitration method will be conducted behind closed doors in secret and only by the federal government!

Many Canadians are unaware that the sometimes-reviled National Energy Policy has been gutted in the advance of free trade. No longer can Canada try to establish Canadian pricing for oil that is manufactured, refined and sold in Canada. Canadians ceded that ability when the ruling Liberal Party signed onto NAFTA. Canada now has little to no control over supplies and pricing. During free trade negotiations the Mexican negotiators were smart enough to balk at the American proposal to write into law that Canada and Mexico must give them a full two-thirds of all of natural gas production. This is still in place today, and what this means is that even though Canada ships over two million barrels of oil a day south, the two-thirds rule guarantees that we cede our ability for national pricing. If Canada wanted to cut back on exports of natural gas or oil, we must also cut our own national consumption by an equal amount. A staggering thought in this age of dwindling supplies and record consumption. FIPA sadly takes this to the extreme.

FIPA also contains these clauses but takes them a step further covering ALL of Canada’s natural resources. Timber, copper, uranium, rare earth elements, water, and every other natural resource is potentially subject to this deal and if Canada ever wanted to reduce Chinese access to these resources, we MUST reduce our own access to our own resources by the same order. Talk about removing national determination…

FIPA also opens up more Canadian industries to Chinese state investors, and governmental oversight is extremely limited in ensuring any such takeover is in the best interests of Canadians. So say goodbye to Canadian energy and mining industries, as everything will be fair game under FIPA. The Chinese government is sitting on nearly $3 trillion in monetary reserves, so such a deal is an invitation to a buying frenzy.

NAFTA can be abrogated with six months notice, FIPA is one year. FIPA is also binding for a total of 31 years! Yes, for 31 years Canada will be bound by this secret trade treaty where Canadian laws will be tossed aside so Chinese state investors can profit at our expense.

Concerned Canadians need to act fast as the clock is most certainly ticking and the worst trade deal Canadian’s have ever seen is looming large. The choice is simple – a Canada for Canadians, or one for made for Chinese investors.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

Further reading:
www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/fipa-apie/china-text-chine.aspx?lang=en&view=d
http://www.thetyee.ca/Documents/2012/10/14/Canada-China%20FIPA%20and%20Explanatory%20Memorandum%208532-411-46%28OCR%29.pdf
http://www.greenparty.ca/stop-the-sellout

Omnibus Budget Bills – A Real Problem Unless They’re Yours

The House of Commons is once again consumed by issues of the day and none are looming larger than the current Conservative omnibus budget bill. Weighing in at over 400 pages, this grab-bag masquerading as a budget bill is a sad attempt at circumventing both the will of the Canadian people and their democratic oversight via their elected officials. I’d say it was a bad attempt, but with a majority of seats the Conservative Party will ram it through perceptions be damned.

But how can one not take exception at the perception of a two-faced Conservative Party? When in opposition the Conservative Party under PM Harper’s direction took aim at the Liberal’s own omnibus budget bills – and may I say rightly so. So if the Conservative Party found there to be a problem with omnibus budget bills of 20 pages, why do they not have any problem with their own budget bill that is 20 times larger?

You would think it would be hard to defend that situation, yet the Conservative’s are attempting to do just that. It’s as if PM Harper never said, “I just regret that we are proceeding with this omnibus approach to legislation which, because it lumps in things we support and things we do not support, unfortunately deprives us of the ability to support the government in votes where that would be appropriate.” Yes indeed, so why do they now expect the opposition and the Canadian people to swallow 20 times more in one gulp?

This situation really becomes surreal when we take under consideration the ruling party’s election campaign promises and sloganeering of transparency. Where is the transparency in an omnibus budget bill? Unless it’s so transparent it cannot be seen, something is rotten in Ottawa.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

2011 Federal Election Campaign Trail

At this point in the 2011 Canadian federal election all the parties are getting their candidates officially registered with elections Canada and pounding their signs into the ground to attract every last voter to their party. This is all part and parcel of any election campaign. Where much of the focus remains is with the party leaders and their campaign and platform announcements. They do this in small pieces in part to gauge response from voters, though surely most have already done internal polling to find out what people like or dislike about any policy announcement. So what excitement does that leave the casual follower of politics in Canada? If it is excitement you were looking for there hasn’t been much yet.

Both the Conservatives and Liberals have been faced with some embarrassment over their chosen candidates and their past histories and had to remove them before any dirt flew from them to the national campaign. This seems to happen each election cycle and could be said to be unavoidable no matter how hard a party tries. Getting 300+ candidates fielded for any party is no easy feat so some wrong candidates getting in is part of the course. It’s how the parties react that matters to voters and both parties reacted quickly and put out the fires. No advantage for any party here.

The Greens are finding themselves outright excluded from the Leader’s Debate and have filed – or tried to file – a court challenge. The courts said they could not hear the case before the debates take place – so in other words – too darn bad. The Green Party has also drawn the ire of the small parties because they turned down a proposal to have a small party debate. The Greens don’t want to be seen any longer as a ‘small party’ but instead as a party on the verge of breaking through. The whole issue is a drain on their resources though and extra efforts had to be made to raise the funds to the legal challenge and subsequent media advertising over this issue. The Greens report that donations have been flying in and they are covering these costs themselves – a problem some thought might fall to the taxpayers which is false.

The NDP under Jack Layton are so far staying out of any troubles and have made some policy announcements that have gone over rather well. Layton is also showing great resilience health-wise considering where he was just a few short months ago. It will be interesting to see if he can keep up the pace for another three weeks. The NDP have been consistent throughout this campaign and much of their push policy-wise was seen in the recent budget negotiations.

The Bloc Quebecois are finding ways to make waves on the national scene and not only Quebec with repeated challenges to the Stephen Harper and the Conservatives over the issue of coalitions. The Conservatives have claimed many times that they did not seek a coalition with the ‘separatists’ but a document saying otherwise and the adamant rebuttal by the Bloc would suggest otherwise. Yet this hasn’t stopped the Conservatives from banging on the anti-coalition drum which resonates well with their core voters.

The biggest anchor which could slow a party would be the issue around the F-35 purchase. Just before the election broke there were rumblings that the Conservatives were vastly understating the total amount it would cost. Then this week comes news from the United States that the cost per plane is nearly double what the Conservatives have been stating. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page noted that the prices between what he could see and the numbers from the Conservatives were out of line and Winslow Wheeler of the Centre for Defence Information in Washington says each plane could cost as much as $148 million each with no guarantee that cost won’t increase further. It’s hard to push such a major expenditure when there is such a debt weighing on government and Canadian voters may not want to pony up the cash and may vote accordingly if this issue is a hot topic one for them.

Good news for the Conservatives comes in the In and Out scheme has disappeared from the mainstream media. They must be glad to have the election underway before any further information comes out about that. Timing was good for them there. And speaking of election matters and the Conservatives, in an effort to shore up more support amongst their traditional voters, they have announced that they will do away with the party vote subsidy if they get a majority. This is one announcement that the FPJ doesn’t like one iota. There was a distinct and very valid reason Canada undertook electoral reform and the subsidy is really the only tax Canadians can directly apportion. If you don’t vote – there is nothing generated and if you do vote, only money for the party voted for is generated. This simple issue has seemingly confused many Conservative voters who state that they don’t want “subsidize the Bloc” or some other rationale for supporting their party on this issue. Maybe they just don’t get it, and their party certainly isn’t helping.