OTTAWA – Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue has resigned his seat in the House of Commons due to a donation scandal in the 2011 election campaign.
He is the second minister to step down in the last month. John Duncan resigned as aboriginal affairs minister after improperly lobbying a tax court judge on behalf of a constituent.
There are allegations that as a candidate in Labrador, Penashue went over the spending limit and may have accepted a corporate donation, which is illegal.
Penashue acknowledged there were ineligible donations to his campaign but said an inexperienced volunteer is responsible.
NDP MP Charlie Angus does not believe it.
“For a man who’s an experienced campaign organizer, who actually ended up getting appointed to a key partisan patronage position on the offshore oil board, that’s not what you give an inexperienced volunteer,” he said.
Angus said Penashue is doing the right thing by stepping down but there are still many unanswered questions.
“I think Elections Canada could help us all by explaining what was the nature of their investigation, what did they find and were they on the point of bringing charges when Mr. Penashue made the jump.”
“Why is he resigning now? Is this to escape charges that are coming? Is this part of an agreement with Elections Canada to forestall charges in exchange for running in a by-election?”
“I think Mr. Penashue and Mr. Harper should come clean with Canadians.”
Penashue only won his seat by 79 votes but plans to run again in a by-election to regain the riding.
Transport Minister Denis Lebel is going to be taking over the inter-governmental affairs file.
Requests for an interview with Penashue or someone with the Conservative Party have not been answered.