On Peter Penashue

Rex Murphy shares his views on Peter Penashue.

Rex Murphy shares his views on Peter Penashue.


Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode.

It's not to be expected on Budget Day, and under the bright sun of the Finance Minister's always luminous prose, that we should be mindful of something as remote as a Newfoundland by-election.


But there is very shortly to be one, and running in it,  is the man whose resignation caused it in the first place.


His story in essence: I did wrong.  I'm sorry. I quit. Hey, I'm running again.


Peter Penashue's victory 2 years ago was a slim and sketchy thing...less flood than trickle.  Seventy-nine votes is not a steamroller margin, and if that sliver of a victory was assisted by some 40 thousand extra dollars Mr. Penashue should NOT have spent,then there are at least common sense grounds for questioning whether it was a victory at all.


The extra money surely bent the game in favour of the now resigned Mr. Penashue.  So the candidates who followed the rules lost; the guy who didn't - won... barely. Now that's a strange pedestal on which to inscribe the boast - Mr. Harper's - that Penashue is the best MP the district ever had.


Thus it is on this basis alone difficult to understand Mr. Harper's exuberance over the now-again candidate Penashue.  Does having to resign 2 years in constitute a first in excellence?  Election finance irregularities? Improper donations?  Do any of these really add up to being "the best MP Labrador has ever had?" 


Mr. Harper went on to list all the great stuff Labrador received because Mr. Penashue was the member. That's kind of antique.   Are we back in the day when governments effectively 'punished' opposition districts; vote for us if you want stuff politics?

And do policies now get decided by whether a district is a government one or an opposition one?


Finally whatever his efficiency in getting government money, under a different heading, as Newfoundland's representative in the federal cabinet, Mr. Penashue has been less than a star.


Compare him with cunning Jack Pickersgill in the days of Lord Smallwood, Don Jamieson in Trudeau's cabinet - or  the incomparable John Crosbie…Lord Smallwood's early foil and one who during the Mulroney years bestrode Ottawa like a wisecracking colossus. 


These titans were almost second Premiers, performers all and national figures.  Mr. Penashue is not in that league; at best, an understudy.


But I suppose in these last few days the Prime Minister in the shadow of the always ominous Budget Speech, was probably looking for a way to lighten things up.


How better than hilariously extolling virtue where little is to be found, and boasting that the "best"  MP  was one whose brightest fame is that he had to step down, and leave both Cabinet and the riding half way in his term.


No wonder it's still snowing.


For the National, I'm Rex Murphy.