Penashue’s missteps were, at first, discounted by his freshman experience in the large and complex political environment that is Ottawa. It was thought that all he needed was a period of orientation. Yet, as the weeks went by it became clear he was no quick study. Nor, indeed, had he a penchant for forthrightness or an ability to communicate with his constituents, the media or the people of the Province.The Prime Minister’s vocal support, in Parliament, declaring Penashue ‘the best MP ever from Labrador’ had all the arrogance of one who could care less whether the former MP prevails. Had the PM indicated, openly and sincerely, that Penshue’s behaviour was unacceptable, that a higher standard of behaviour is expected from his MPs, that he wants him re-elected, and if successful, he will keeps tabs on him, we would only have expected as much.
If Peter had echoed the PM’s remarks and offered his own apologies, taken together, the whole exercise might have had an ounce of credibility. As it stands, the PM, wittingly or not, raced to place himself on the same level as the unworthy MP. Getting one over, on the Chief Electoral Officer, in this case, has all the marks of ‘too slick by half’. Harper is smarter than that. I once thought.
Even if Penashue is not formally charged with an offense, following the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer, he has been forced to resign not because he may be too pleasant a fellow but because he overspent, collected donations and services from illegitimate sources and failed to accurately report.
His election is too recent not to remember that Penashue’s start, in Parliament, was even less illuminating than his departure. Still, his appointment to the Federal Cabinet offered hope that Danny William’s ABC campaign, which erased the chances of P.C. hopefuls in the traditionally Tory held seats of the Avalon Peninsula, would offer a larger dimension of engagement than that permitted an unelected Senator.A Province like Ontario, Quebec and a few others, because of their larger populations and hence, more numerous MPs, benefits from holding multiple seats in any one Party. They are better positioned when one MP, like Penashue, falls short and the Prime Minister, of whatever stripe, needs a ready replacement. But, Peter was the lone Tory MP from this Province; election night’s surprise. For no other reason, the PM elevated him to the rank of Cabinet Minister.
Representation in the Federal Cabinet is no small matter. We lose a great deal when we lack a John Crosbie or a Brian Tobin to advance our issues and compete for limited federal largesse. The notion that Nova Scotia’s Peter McKay will make sure that NL gets its just desserts requires the innocence of one who believes in the tooth fairy.Candidates for the Liberal Party and the NDP will jockey for position, as they must, and seek to be elected. That is how our political system works. The rest is the decision of the voters of Labrador.
But, the Tories should have stepped back a bit. Someone ought to have reminded the PM that they owe Peter nothing, that if there are any debts outstanding, those of the Party, the District and the Province come well ahead of his personal aspirations. Now that his desk has been cleaned out, a good Lieutenant should have informed the nascent and delinquent political soldier that he is back to square one; that the competitive nomination process will be employed, one that is an important hallmark of that Party.The Federal Tories have a high risk of being shut out in this Province. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have an equally high risk of being without the influence of one who is a Member of the Nation’s Privy Council. Undoubtedly, the ‘sillies’ will gloat over denying the Federal Tories a seat, having delivered PM Harper another kick in the teeth, but their ignorance of how real life works, especially the importance of being represented in Cabinet Government, should not be interpreted as rational thought. Their slavishness, to left wing dogmatism, is equally as corroding as the far right positions of Vic Towes.
With newspaper ads already begun, including the misspelling, Peter Penashue assures us he will neither voluntarily walk away from the by-election nor apply any additional depth to the job, should he get re-elected.Undoubtedly, commitments made, including the Federal Loan Guarantee, for Muskrat Falls, (notwithstanding the Project’s threat to the financial integrity of the Province), quite rightly guaranteed jobs and other benefits to First Nations people and contributed to his initial electoral success. But, as his Ottawa experience has already proven, Peter is not strong on follow through. So far, very few Native people have gotten jobs on the Project. How will Peter explain that even the lowest skilled, the security jobs, are being filled by others? Likely, with resignation; but then, he has done that already.
Evidently, the Prime Minister and his so-called ‘strategists’, in the Federal Conservative Party, who claim a grip on ‘big picture’ politics can’t figure out that Peter is toast. They can’t see that Labrador and the whole Province deserve better than what Penashue has on offer. They can’t even see that trying to out-pace the Chief Electoral Officer, is just too cute.Likely, we’ll have to learn to do without those ‘smart asses’ in the Imperial City.