I think it’s fair to call the money paid by the Conservatives back to Canadians, in lieu of disgraced Minister Peter Penashue repaying us, as hush money, akin to bribery. The Conservatives inexplicably are signalling that they’ll welcome Penashue as their candidate in the upcoming Labrador byelection, despite the fact that it seems probable that he’ll be found guilty of election fraud at some point in the coming years (because the wheels of Elections Canada justice turn that ridiculously slow). They are framing the situation as one where if Penashue wins his seat in a byelection, it has the effect of absolving him of criminal responsibility for grossly violating the Elections Act while he outspent his competition who stayed within the rules. Elections do not actually do that.
Consider this analogy by Sixth Estate:
It’s also more of the same in the sense that the Conservatives are once again claiming that there is no such thing as political responsibility. Everything, we are told, was done by an inexperienced staffer. There can be no blame laid at the feet of Penashue — not even the blame for hiring this allegedly incompetent person in the first place. I can just imagine, in contrast, how the Canada Revenue Agency would react if I sent them the following letter (which, I’ll take pains to emphasize, refers to entirely fictitious circumstances):
Hi, CRA. With respect to that audit of $50,000 in unpaid taxes you notified me of, I want you to know that some mistakes were made by somebody else. Whoops! I guess I shouldn’t have given that homeless dude a $10 Tim Hortons gift card in exchange for filling out my tax forms. I want you to know that I’m going to hire a real accountant this time around, and I’m even going to file a new tax return in place of the old one. So no hard feelings, right?
You should also know that Elections Canada is keeping a secret file, not available to journalists, on Penashue.
Penashue’s crime, which he is publicly blaming on volunteer campaign agent Reg Bowers, will cost tax payers in excess of $250,000. Penashue made well over $200,000 in salary from a job he cheated in an election to win. The byelection required by his resignation over the fraud will be five figures. The election he contested in 2011 was ruined by his unfair advantage. By filing an expense report with Elections Canada after May 2, 2011, his EDA would have been reimbursed for campaign expenses that we now know were not eligible for a tax payer money refund.
The more than $44,350 paid by the Conservative Party of Canada in this tale of crime, is just a few thousand shy of the FINE paid by the Conservatives for violating the Elections Act with their In and Out fraud from 2006’s campaign. Last July, we heard that the overspending was in the ballpark of $4,000!
Can anyone seriously believe that Penashue’s campaign team was so unintentionally incompetent as to overspend not by $1, or $10, or $100, or $1,000, or even $10,000, but by more than four times as much as the first five figure landmark. How does someone miss that many zeros? Their attitude seemed to be one where they were willing to win at literally any cost, and damn the consequences and our democratic system.
Conservative Senator Wells said this about Penashue: “Working closely, recognizing the errors and working closely with Elections Canada”
When Penashue ran for the seat, his campaign said this about him:
“He also worked closely with business and community leaders.”
Hmm, so if “working closely” is a euphemism, just how much did Penashue cheat the businesses and community leaders of Labrador?
He’s working with Elections Canada to rectify any errors. Does that include bribery?