Embattled federal Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue says opposition MPs are being rude as they hammer him with questions over his campaign spending, donations and ministerial travel.
After weeks of questions, only a handful of which he has risen to answer, Penashue on Thursday stood in the House and shot back — but not with an explanation.
"Sometimes I just can't believe how rude and how bullish these people can be," he said after Liberal MP Scott Andrews demanded he resign from cabinet over devoting most of his ministerial travel budget to trips to his riding.
"Our government has a strong relationship with provincial and territorial governments," Penashue said. "I meet with counterparts regularly and focus on [the] strength of the province[s] and growing Canada's economy."
Penashue is the intergovernmental affairs minister, a job that involves facilitating relations between the federal and provincial and territorial governments. Penashue said earlier this week that he has travelled widely for official meetings, but a list published by his department shows that 79 per cent of his trips were to Newfoundland and Labrador.
And, as New Democrat MP Charlie Angus pointed out on Wednesday, Penashue has only been west of Toronto once in the year and a half since he has been in the role.
"In fact, almost all his ministerial travel is so he can fly home," Angus said.
"I do not know if he knows that he works for the Canadian taxpayers and they expect results, but would he stand in the House and tell us when he will come clean with Canadians?"
Penashue answered Angus's question with a prepared statement.
"New exploration and investments are occurring across Canada and especially in Labrador. In my role as the minister of intergovernmental affairs, I get to share these success stories with people from coast to coast to coast, and I work hard to ensure that all Canadians benefit."
Angus was not impressed.
"He has not quite earned his limo and driver yet, because if he were going to share these stories from coast to coast to coast, he would actually have to go there."
NDP and Liberal critics peppered Penashue with questions in the House of Commons Wednesday and Thursday on his travel, as well as his decision to wait until next Tuesday to tell constituents his explanation for overspending in his 2011 campaign.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau turned the questioning back to recent revelations of Election Canada records that show Penashue's campaign may have received a campaign contribution from the St. John's-based construction company Pennecon, which would violate federal law.
Conservative MPs defend Penashue
Garneau said constituents and others should not have to wait until next week to hear Penashue's promised explanation.
"How will he explain $20,000 in overspending, an interest-free loan from a company run by his brother-in-law, a corporate donation of free air travel, anonymous donations and a corporate gift from a construction company that does business with the government?" he said.
Penashue did not answer the question. Instead, Poilievre said, "that kind of nasty vitriolic attack is not welcome on the floor of this House."
The Liberals have accused Penashue of cheating to pull off an upset victory that unseated Liberal incumbent Todd Russell and have demanded he step down from cabinet.
The pattern continued on Thursday, with Penashue taking few questions.
New Democrat MP Robert Chisholm asked if Penashue would be at next week's first ministers meeting in Halifax, where the provincial and territorial leaders will meet. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson rose instead of Penashue to talk about a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers last week.
Penashue became the first Tory since 1968 to win the seat, and only the second since Confederation. Liberal candidates have otherwise prevailed in the riding.