By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA–Former federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue’s campaign knew by at least mid-February it had run afoul of electoral donation laws, Elections Canada records show.
Elections Canada rejected Penashue’s amended campaign return that month because it failed to identify returned corporate donations and made no reference to an $18,710 non-monetary contribution from an airline, according to a Feb. 12 letter from Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. The letter was carbon copied to Penashue, who was intergovernmental affairs minister at the time.
Mayrand’s letter raises questions around the timing of Penashue’s resignation.
Penashue’s campaign returned a total of $46,560 in ineligible donations Elections Canada records show. At least 16 of the donations came from businesses. It is against election laws to accept corporate donations.
“The information provided does not support the changes requested,” said Mayrand’s letter, which was addressed to Sandra Troster, Penashue’s new official agent. “In cases in which corporate cheques were received, corporate rather than individual names and addresses are required and no reference was made with respect to the reporting of the contributions of air travel services provided by Innu Mikun Limited Partnership and Provincial Airlines Limited. Consequently, authorization to correct the return is not granted.”
Mayrand’s letter came in response to an amended electoral campaign return submitted to the elections watchdog on Dec. 19, 2012.
Mayrand gave the campaign a deadline of March 4 to make the changes.
The campaign did eventually submit a cheque for an $18,710.54 non-monetary donation from the airline for campaign travel during the last federal election, according to a copy of a March 4 dated cheque.
Penashue resigned his post as intergovernmental affairs minister and his Labrador seat last Thursday. In his statement, Penashue claimed he was resigning after he and his campaign became “aware that there were ineligible donations accepted by the former official agent.” Penashue said he would run again in a byelection.
Yet, according to Elections Canada records, his campaign had been trying to amend his electoral returns since at least mid-December.
Penashue could not be immediately reached for comment.
Fred Delorey, spokesperson for the Conservative party, would only say that the official agent “did not complete the amended return until recently.”