Conservative party officials will be travelling to Labrador to continue their review of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue's campaign spending during the last federal election, CBC Radio'sThe House host Evan Solomon reported Saturday.
This week, CBC News reported that a deposit slip in Penashue's 2011 election file showed a listing for a deposit of $5,500 from Pennecon Ltd., a construction company based in St. John's. Six of the company's board members were given receipts for donations from $550 to $1,100, for a total of $5,500.
In a segment airing Saturday, Solomon reported that the "PMO is so concerned about this situation that officials from the party's headquarters will soon be travelling to Labrador in order to continue their review."
Solomon also reported that the deposit slip in Penashue's 2011 election file came with an accompanying document explaining who the $5,500 donation came from.
The document is said to explain that the single deposit from Pennecon Ltd. represents individual donations from six partners in the company.
Elections Canada is said to be examining the document.
Corporate donations are illegal in Canada. It's also illegal to funnel donations through another person.
Rae calls for new vote in Labrador
On Friday, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae Rae kept up the pressure on the Labrador MP.
Speaking to provincial Liberals in Newfoundland, Rae said that Penashue should be forced to face the electorate again because of spending irregularities during the most recent federal election campaign.
Liberals have called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to kick Penashue out of cabinet for questionable campaign spending and donations.
Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner charged that Penashue broke Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own rules on accountability.
"Not only did he take a corporate gift of $17,000 in free air travel, but he took a corporate cheque of $5,500 from Pennecon. After this slap in the face to the prime minister's own law, why is this minister still in cabinet?" Cuzner said Friday in question period.
Tory MP mum
Penashue was in the House of Commons Friday, but didn't stand to face the barrage of questions about the possible corporate donation. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre responded to opposition allegations instead. Penashue has avoided answering questions about his campaign spending and fundraising since the first reports of irregularities.
Baird pointed to changes the Conservative government made to political contribution laws, changes that built on lower limits already imposed by the previous Liberal government.
"There is a new official agent in place who is working with Elections Canada to correct any mistakes in the return. The minister, Mr. Speaker, has always been very clear in directing his campaign not to accept corporate or union donations," Baird said. "Why did he do that? Because it was this party and this government which banned big money from Canadian politics."
The only party that has been convicted under the Elections Act is the Conservative Party, Cuzner pointed out.
"And it has paid back a $52,000 settlement. Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member for Labrador is going to avoid such a conviction.… With over 20 per cent in overspending that we know of, that's all that we know of, and now the corporate cheque scandal, when will this minister step down?"
Last Sunday, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae wrote to Elections Canada asking the watchdog to launch an official investigation into what he called the election spending "irregularities" of Penashue's campaign during the last federal election.