Frank A. Pelaschuk
Something stinks in Labrador.
With serious allegations of election overspending and acceptance of corporate donations facing him, after months of denial, Peter Penashue finally resigned as MP on March 14. Prior to that, he had been warned by Elections Canada to correct his expenses or be precluded from sitting in the House. The writing was on the wall. He and the Conservatives repaid over $40K to the federal Receiver General signing off on the revised expense records at the very last moment, just 10 days before he resigned. As a consequence, he escaped facing penalties. That he delayed so long, that he paid only at the last moment, suggests a man and a party who not only believed he might get away with it, but that he and they really had little respect for Elections Canada, the rules and for those who elected him.
Politics is a cynical game and sometimes dirty. Unfortunately, far too many who play the game do so with little respect for the process and for the electorate. But none, in recent years, have been more abusive or disrespectful than Harper and his gang.
It was only when Penashue finally tendered is resignation that Canadians learned he, Harper and the gang, had, four days before, already launched his re-election campaign. That is cynicism at its worst. It demonstrates complete disrespect, not only for the voters of Labrador, but also for the citizens of Canada. Any individual with an ounce of pride and under such a cloud, who forced to repay money and to step down, would not only have acknowledged responsibility and blame, he would have apologized and stayed resigned. Not Penashue. Not Harper and gang. Instead, and most puzzling, declaring him the best MP “ever,” Harper and gang threw their full weight of support behind this man who discredited his office and himself. Shamelessly, without the by-election writ yet dropped, Harper and gang and Penashue went into full advertising mode. Not only that, neither Penashue nor Harper and members of CRAP (i.e., Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party) even considered the possibility of him undergoing a nomination process whereby Conservative members in Labrador could determine for themselves whether or not they wanted him representing them in their riding; he was going to run and that was it.
The fix was in; it stank then and it stinks now.
When CBC reporter Peter Cowan recently attempted to question Penashue, the ex MP refused to respond to the questions preferring instead to embark on a tirade against Cowan and the CBC. Voicing his unhappiness with the reporter and CBC, accusing them of treating him unfairly (!), Penashue then went on to suggest that a CBC reporter was working in the Liberal campaign against him. You can see where that was going. Naturally, Peter Cowan denied bias and that a CBC colleague was working for the Liberals. With Penashue, the denial meant nothing. It is true that a one-time employee of CBC, retired for two years, is working for the Liberal campaign. What Penashue neglected to share was that a retired CBC employee had also worked on his last campaign. The exchange between Penashue and Peter Cowan was interesting on several levels. One of them is that Penashue spoke more in this one episode than he did during all his time as MP. Another is that Penashue employed a tactic that has long been mainstay of CRAP and their department of dirty tricks. Play the victim, defend the indefensible, employ diversion and evasion, make baseless accusations, tell partial truths, and resort to innuendo, distortion and outright lying.
What is difficult to understand about this fiasco is why Harper would hitch himself to the discredited Penashue in the first place rather than simply casting him adrift, or throwing him under the bus, as he apparently finds easy to do with some (do the names Michael Sona and Helena Guergis ring any bells?). As it stands, Penashue is the Conservative candidate of choice, but one wonders, with the Liberals surging in his riding, if he will suddenly be left to his own devices receiving from Harper and gang only tokens of support. If Justin Trudeau becomes leader of the federal Liberal party as expected, it should not surprise anyone if Harper and gang wash their hands of him still proclaiming him the best MP Labrador ever had.
Now supporters have claimed that Penashue has “fallen on his sword.” There is in that claim a suggestion of self-sacrificing nobility, a suggestion that he did something honourable, that he took full responsibility for the debacle that resulted in his resignation. In fact, the likes of Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Poilievre and others of CRAP have even said that. That is Conservative revisionism at its best. It is also a crock! If Penashue has offered a full mea culpa, most of us must have been sleeping. Outed, he has yet to publicly take full ownership of what happened. As a result, he does not deserve sympathy nor votes.What emerges from this tawdry episode is very disturbing. Harper and gang apparently have a very clear picture of Labradoreans and it is not flattering. Evidently they do not believe Labradoreans are concerned with honesty or with ethics or with candidates possessing even a modicum of shame.
Let’s hope that Labradoreans prove them wrong.
ON ANOTHER MATTER
Over the years, Harper and gang have stated more than once that tax evaders would be at the top of the agenda. They said the same in their latest budget. They must have had their fingers crossed. While they talk tough, a recent release of millions of leaked documents has revealed that 130,000 global tax evaders, among them 450 Canadians, have ripped off governments for trillions of dollars. Even as the news made the headlines for 15 minutes, even as Finance Minister James Flaherty vowed to go after them, Canadians were informed that the Canada Revenue Agency was in the process of laying off 3000 workers. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s nice to know that Harper’s wealthy friends don’t have to worry. But it’s not so nice if you’re collecting EI. He has already decided you’re dishonest.
This should enrage Canadians. They should be screaming from the rooftops. Instead, there is silence. You and I are being ripped off by people who know how to use and abuse the system. And Harper and gang are doing nothing to stop them, are in fact, abetting them. That should enrage you for more than 15 minutes.