Nfld. & Labrador

Reg Bowers, Peter Penashue's agent, charged under Elections Act

Reg Bowers, who served as the official agent for former federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue during a controversial 2011 election campaign, and is now a councillor in the Labrador town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has been charged under the Canada Elections Act.

Bowers is now a councillor in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador

Reg Bowers, who served as the official agent for former federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue during a controversial 2011 campaign, has been charged under the Canada Elections Act. 

Reg Bowers was the official agent for Peter Penashue during the 2011 general election. He's now a Labrador town's councillor facing charges under the Canada Elections Act related to his time with onetime MP Penashue. (CBC)

The commissioner of Canada Elections announced Thursday that Bowers, now a Happy Valley-Goose Bay town councillor, had been charged with three counts under the act.

The charges, laid Thursday in provincial court in St. John's, relate to allegations of taking illegal contributions from corporations and discounted airfares for Penashue's campaign in the general election. 

Penashue won the race in the riding of Labrador, a breakthrough for the Conservative Party of Canada in an area that has traditionally voted Liberal. 

After an extensive CBC News investigation into the financing of that campaign, Penashue resigned and ran in a subsequent 2013 byelection. He lost to Liberal Yvonne Jones. 

Bowers was elected to town council in January. At the time, he told CBC's Labrador Morning that he felt he "probably" would be charged. 

A woman answering the phone at Bowers's house on Thursday told the CBC's Peter Cowan, "I don't think he'd like to talk to you." 

However, Bowers later told CBC News his lawyer advised him not to do interviews.

Regarding his status as a councillor, Bowers said he hasn't heard anything for the town and doesn't believe the charges will affect his work.

Town officials said Thursday afternoon they are aware of the charges against Bowers, adding the municipality will make a statement at a later date.

Blamed Bowers for problems

When Penashue stepped down to run again in the 2013 byelection, Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to Penashue as "the best member of Parliament Labrador has ever had."

The day he tendered his resignation, Penashue — who had served as minister of intergovernmental affairs and president of Treasury Board — blamed Bowers for problems with his election campaign. 

Penashue described Bowers as an "inexperienced volunteer" who handled his paperwork and campaign donations, which included ineligible corporate donations.

In the House of Commons Thursday, NDP MP Megan Leslie asked Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre if amendments will be made to the Elections Act to "crack down on Conservatives who break our electoral laws."

"It's obviously an affair between Elections Canada and Mr. Bowers, and we'll allow the process to unfold," Poilievre said.

Bowers's case is slated for June 9 at provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. 


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