By PHILIP FERNANDEZ
[TML Daily] SINCE OCTOBER, the Harper government’s Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue, the MP for Labrador, has been facing mounting pressure from the Opposition within Parliament and from his constituents to step down because of alleged corruption and breach of the Canada Elections Act related to his political campaign during the 2011 federal election. Penashue, an Innu politician and businessman, was Deputy Grand Chief of the Innu Nation from 2007 to 2010 and President of the Labrador Innu Nation for 12 years. He was also considered one of the “deal-makers” in the “impacts-benefit” agreement between the Innu and the Voisey’s Bay Nickel Company owned by Vale, the Brazilian mining monopoly which shafted the Sudbury mine workers at Inco.
On the basis of documents obtained from Elections Canada, the CBC states that Penashue overspent his election limit by close to $4,000, took corporate donations totalling $5,500 from Pennecon Limited, a construction company active in Labrador and managed to get illegal subsidized air travel for his political campaign travel from a local carrier, Provincial Air. In addition, he obtained a $25,000 interest-free loan for his campaign from the Innu Development Limited Partnership (IDLP), which also contravenes election spending rules. At the time, the IDLP was run by Penashue’s brother- in-law, who has since been forced to step down because of pressure from the community for paying himself and board members huge sums of money.
It is clear that the Harper government is protecting Penashue against all criticism of wrongdoing. He is their agent in Labrador who is willing to act in the interests of the biggest monopolies. It is not an accident, in the context of the growing calls for Penashue’s resignation, that on November 30, Prime Minister Harper went to Goose Bay to sign a federal loan guarantee to move forward the massive Muskrat Falls Hydro Electric Project. Part of the loan agreement is that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be on the hook for ensuring that the loan and the interest are repaid through the provincial government.
This private-public partnership project involves Nalcor Energy and Emera (the parent company of Nova Scotia Power and Bangor Hydro-Electric of Maine). It is to provide cheap power to the largest oil, mining and energy monopolies in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and elsewhere. It is no accident that Penashue has his fingers in this project. His filings with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner show that he, along with his brother Max Penashue and his wife Mary Ann Penashue, is connected to a firm called Liannu LLP which is building a 22-kilometre access road to the Muskrat Falls Project and bidding on another contract to build a cafeteria and dormitory.
Penashue has no credibility in Newfoundland and Labrador. The citizens in his riding are demanding that he resign. The Harper government, itself mired in election spending and other scandals since 2006, has no shred of credibility left after refusing to hold Penashue to account – all in order to politicize private interests over the rights of the peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada.
(With files from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network)