Former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley discusses the impact and implications of former MP Peter Penashue's illegal campaign spending
Peter Penashue's campaign had to settle up after taking 28 illegal contributions in his 2011 federal election campaign, including more than $18,000 from Provincial Airlines and $5,500 from construction company Pennecon, newly released records show.
The records, posted on Elections Canada's website, show Penashue's campaign first made amends last November, almost four months before he told Conservative officials that he wanted to step down and fight for his seat again in a byelection.
Penashue resigned his seat in the House of Commons Thursday, as well as his role as intergovernmental affairs minister, in the wake of controversy over taking corporate donations and going over his election campaign spending limit.
Revised campaign spending records published Friday show:
- Penashue's campaign accepted 28 ineligible, or illegal, donations.
- The illegal monetary donations totalled $27,850, with an additional $18,710.54 in in-kind contributions from Provincial Airlines.
- The donations included money from Pennecon Ltd., a company whose contribution was revealed last fall by CBC News.
Penashue's campaign wrote two big cheques to the federal government through the Receiver General of Canada to cover the ineligible contributions. Candidates can pay back ineligible donors or pay the ineligible amount to the Receiver General.
- $26,850 was paid on Nov. 28, 2012 to cover the monetary contributions (one ineligible contribution had been paid off shortly after the 2011 election, for a total of $27,850).
- The in-kind contribution of $18,710.54 was paid March 4, 2013, a week-and-a-half before Penashue resigned.
Party gave campaign $44,350
The campaign had just under $4,000 in its account by the end of the summer after the 2011 election, with $15,000 owing to an Innu group that had loaned it $25,000. Innu Development Limited Partnership, which was run at the time by Penashue's brother-in-law, Paul Rich, made the loan without setting out an interest rate in the contract, although an interest-free loan isn't allowed under Canadian election law.
The Conservative Party came to Penashue's rescue last November, transferring $10,000 and then $20,000 to the campaign on Nov. 23, 2012.
The party transferred another $14,350 to the campaign on March 1, 2013.
Penashue's resignation forces a byelection in Labrador, a large and sparsely populated riding. Prime Minister Stephen Harper must announce the date of the byelection within six months.
Yvonne Jones, currently a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador house of assembly, said Friday morning she'll run for the federal Liberals.
A CBC News investigation first revealed last fall that Penashue's campaign may have taken corporate donations. Had it paid for the flights around Labrador, the campaign would have gone about 21 per cent over the spending maximum allowed by Elections Canada.
Now that he has compensated the federal government, the amount spent on the flights no longer counts toward his $84,468.09 cap. It is listed in a separate category for expenses that don't count toward a candidate's spending limit. The records show he was slightly over his cap, at $89,997.85.
'I haven't done anything wrong'
In an interview with a Labrador radio station, Penashue said he was waiting for Elections Canada to finish its report into the campaign spending, which he said he expects soon.
"What I saw, I wasn't pleased. So I thought that the best and appropriate thing to do was to resign," he said.
"I'm not comfortable with those illegitimate contributions and ... I don't think Labradorians feel comfortable with it either so I think it's proper that I resign and have the people of Labrador decide as to who they would like to have them represented in Ottawa."
"I haven't done anything wrong because I didn't have any knowledge to it," he added.
Penashue told the radio station that he thinks he'll win the byelection.