14 November 2012

Time to Rescind the Pork Appointment #nlpoli

Last December, the federal cabinet appointed intergovernmental affairs minister Peter Penashue’s campaign manager in the 2011 to a plum seat on the joint federal-provincial board that regulates the province’s offshore oil industry.

It was a pure pork-barrel appointment since Reg Bowers has absolutely no background that might have made him  qualified to sit on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.  A series of appointments by his provincial Conservative friends doesn’t count.

Bowers landed a sweet gig:  six years, subject to reappointment.  Hob-knobbing with international oil industry types.

Flip ahead a year and Penashue has tried to distance himself from the controversy.  A letter from Penashue to constituents released on Tuesday notes that Bowers was responsible for campaign administration.  Penashue says he made it clear that the campaign would follow Elections Canada rules.

“No one is more surprised than I am at the allegations that have arisen since the campaign,” wrote Penashue.  “No one is more disappointed. That’s why there is a new Official Agent in place to examine all of the paperwork and to work with Elections Canada to correct any mistakes.”

There have been enough questions about Penashue’s campaign finances since last summer for him to have relinquished his cabinet job until Elections Canada finished its probe into the campaign. The fact he hasn’t done so is one thing.

But In his letter to constituents, Penashue pointed to his official agent during the campaign and his responsibility, as a function of the position he occupied, for the state of Penashue’s campaign accounts, finances and documentation.

Something was clearly amiss in Penashue’s campaign.  The problems with Penashue’s campaign may well have resulted from nothing more exotic than incompetence.  But that incompetence should be seen plainly enough by now, on the face of it, to cause the federal cabinet to request Mr. Bowers’ resignation from the offshore board.  If he doesn’t to leave voluntarily, then he can be removed. 

Peter Penashue’s letter laid the groundwork for it.

Let’s just get on with it.