Penashue approved new election file 10 days before he quit
Elections Canada warned missing March 4 deadline could have meant losing ability to vote
Former Labrador MP Peter Penashue, under fire for taking illegal campaign donations, signed off on new spending records 10 days before resigning his seat, newly released documents show.
Records in Penashue's updated election file show he approved the changes on March 4, 2013, the last day possible for the campaign to update the file without facing penalties.
He resigned March 14, the day before Elections Canada was due to update its website with the updated numbers on his campaign spending and donations.
The file also shows Elections Canada got tough with Penashue and his new official agent, Sandra Troster, telling them that they had to get the corrected records in on time or Penashue wouldn't be able to sit or vote in the House of Commons.
A letter last month warned Penashue to get the corrected campaign expenses filed on time or Penashue wouldn't be able to sit .
The warning from Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand came in a letter dated Feb. 12, in response to a filing two months earlier by Troster, who was supposed to clean up the books the Conservatives say were mismanaged by Penashue's first official agent.
File left out airline donation
Mayrand says in the letter to Troster, copied to Penashue, that the information Troster filed on Dec. 19, 2012, didn't back up the changes needed to update Penashue's election campaign records.
One problem was that corporate cheques were still filed under individual names and addresses. The other problem, he said, had to do with the $18,710.54 in flights donated by Provincial Airlines Limited and its subsidiary, Innu Mikun.
"No reference was made with respect to the reporting of the contributions of air travel services provided by Innu Mikun Limited Partnership and Provincial Airlines Limited," Mayrand said in the Feb. 12 letter.
"I wish to remind you that non-compliance with this deadline may result in the candidate being unable to sit or vote as a member in the House of Commons."
Troster had more information hand-delivered the day of the March 4 deadline, including a cheque from the campaign to cover the donated flights. It appears the issue of the flights wasn't dealt with until then.
Penashue resigned last Thursday because he wanted to go to be accountable to voters after seeing "inaccuracies in the [campaign] return," he said in a statement.
The Conservative Party put up $44,350 to cover 28 illegal donations to Penashue's campaign. The campaign wrote a cheque to the federal government, which is one way of handling ineligible campaign contributions under the Canada Elections Act.
House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer announced Monday that Penashue's former Labrador seat is officially vacant. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has to wait about 10 days before he can announce the byelection date and must do so within six months, but can choose the date Labradorians go to the polls.
Penashue is already advertising his record as an MP and set up a website to promote his record days before he stepped down.
Opposition MPs demanded answers in question period Monday.
"This former minister is going to run in the byelection before Elections Canada is even finished their investigation," New Democrat MP Robert Chisholm said.
"Get this — he resigned on Thursday, yet his campaign website was set up four days earlier. He received a letter from Elections Canada [on] Feb. 12, yet he only took action a month later. Canadians want to know what's really going on."
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said Penashue stood up for his constituents by voting to abolish the gun registry, defending the seal hunt and getting a highway repaved.
"This is a man with a record of achievement. This is a guy who might not use a lot of words, but he does get a lot of results," Poilievre said.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the Conservatives "have taken cheating to a whole new level in Canadian politics."
"They never show respect for our institutions and they don’t show respect for electoral laws in our country ... Stephen Harper has shown time and again that he doesn't understand or respect our parliamentary institutions. This is the most recent, but frankly the most egregious example," Mulcair said after question period.