Pe­nashue no longer has le­git­i­macy

The Compass - - OPINION -

It just keeps get­ting worse for Labrador MP Peter Pe­nashue, and de­spite his best ef­forts, and those of the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives, the Min­is­ter of In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs and Pres­i­dent of the Queen’s Privy Coun­cil for Canada has no one to blame but him­self.

Pe­nashue was elected to the House of Com­mons in May 2011, mak­ing him the first Labrador Innu to be elected to Par­lia­ment, and the first Innu to hold a cab­i­net post. He should be proud on both counts, as are many of his sup­port­ers in Labrador.

He went to Ot­tawa fol­low­ing some note­wor­thy ser­vice to the Labrador Innu community, in­clud­ing a ten­ure as grand chief of the Innu Na­tion, and deep in­volve­ment with some very del­i­cate is­sues such as land claims and self-gov­ern­ment.

To be sure, he is no stranger to lead­er­ship roles, and plenty was expected of him.

But it hasn’t been smooth sail­ing for Pe­nashue the fed­eral politi­cian, who has of­ten been de­scribed as “Ot­tawa’s am­bas­sador to New­found­land” be­cause of his un­bend­ing loy­alty to Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper in the face of deep fed­eral job and ser­vice re­duc­tions in this prov­ince.

The most re­cent con­tro­versy, how­ever, has wiped away any re­main­ing le­git­i­macy Pe­nashue may have had in pol­i­tics. Some re­source­ful prob­ing by CBC News has re­vealed that Pe­nashue mas­sively over­spent his limit in a cam­paign that saw him nar­rowly de­feat Lib­eral Todd Rus­sell, who was the in­cum­bent MP.

It’s also been re­vealed that he vi­o­lated cam­paign rules when an air­line wrote off much of his travel costs, which is con­trary to a rule that states can­di­dates must pay fair mar­ket value for their travel. Pe­nashue racked up large bills fly­ing all over Labrador, de­ter­mined to live up to a pledge to visit ev­ery community.

Pe­nashue and the Con­ser­va­tives have at­tempted to place the blame on his for­mer of­fi­cial fi­nan­cial agent, and on a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence among those in­volved in the cam­paign, in­clud­ing the can­di­date.

The reve­la­tions have cre­ated a po­lit­i­cal firestorm, with the Lib­er­als and the NDP call­ing for stiff sanc­tions against Pe­nashue, in­clud­ing the call­ing of a by­elec­tion.

Con­sid­er­ing that Pe­nashue had such an un­fair ad­van­tage in the 2011 vote, and that the mar­gin of vic­tory was so nar­row, it’s hard to ar­gue that any­thing less would be ac­cept­able.

It’s time for Pe­nashue and his fel­low Con­ser­va­tives to stop mak­ing ex­cuses. There might be some le­niency had the over­spend­ing been in­signif­i­cant. But spend­ing 21 per cent more than is per­mit­ted can­not be ig­nored. The over­spend­ing most cer­tainly bought Pe­nashue ad­di­tional votes, and in such a close race, it’s rea­son­able to as­sume it may have made a dif­fer­ence in the out­come.

Pe­nashue should do the honourable thing and go back to the vot­ers, and fol­low the rules.

– Terry Roberts

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