New Government leader in the Senate to be an elected one?

Earlier this month, Mulroney appointee and Harper lieutenant Marjorie LeBreton announced her retirement as Government leader in the Senate. LeBreton, who is 73, will retire from the Senate in two years.

LeBreton has held the government’s line in the Senate through its problems this year; Senator Brazeau is up on sexual assault charges, while he and three other Senators are facing RCMP investigation over allowance expense irregularities.

A government official speaking about LeBreton’s retirement said, “A fully elected cabinet is an important thing right now”. This was taken by most of Ottawa to mean a deprioritization of the Senate as an institution in the executive branch of government.

However, it could also slyly mean that the Prime Minister will appoint an elected Senator to cabinet to be the government’s voice in the Upper Chamber.

Candidates for this position in cabinet include:

  • Scott Tannas
  • Betty Unger
  • Doug Black

Brent Rathgeber has left the Conservative caucus

Brent Rathgeber has left the Conservative caucus and its a shame that it came to this.

Bill C-461 is its unamended form would have been a much needed piece of legislation that would have provided disclosure of public servant salaries at or above deputy minister 1 (DM1) level ($188,000+).

I spoke on this legislation before committee and I informed them that I was told that the legislation would not pass without amendment, but that amending the legislation would be a scandal for the governing caucus because it speaks to the heart of what it means to be conservative.

The Conservative government was originally elected in 2006 on a promise to bring accountability and transparency to Ottawa. This legislation was pitch perfect for the original Conservative hymn of opening up government for broader public scrutiny.

If the rationale for amending this legislation was to proactively protect from news stories and headlines of the compensation rates of scores of senior staffers, perhaps the government should realize that such government largesse is itself indefensible. In trying to protect themselves from bad headlines, other bad headlines are now being written.

The Conservatives need to get themselves sorted. This is not why they originally came to Ottawa. For Rathgeber, I was pleased to see his work on bill C-461 but was disappointed in his lack of support for bill C-377.

Last night’s gutting of bill C-461 is not why conservatives send Conservative MPs to Ottawa. Bill C-461 sought to bring transparency and accountability to the public service and now this government seems intent on shielding such accountability from the public view.

Peter Penashue quits the cabinet and resigns his seat

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue announced today that he will be quitting the Harper cabinet and resigning his Labrador seat in order to run in a by-election.

The move comes as Penashue is under a scandalous cloud regarding his campaign during the 2011 election as he may have breached the limit and taken a corporate donation. Penashue’s defenders in the party state that he wasn’t aware of what had happened. Penashue is likely running to clear the air and take responsibility. He has also paid back $30,000 to the Receiver General for “ineligible” donations to his last campaign.

Penashue won Labrador for the Conservative Party beating incumbent Todd Russell with a margin of less than 1% of the popular vote. Liberals are now inevitably making the claim the seat was stolen now that Penashue has acknowledged the scandal.

Minister Denis Lebel will take over Penashue’s cabinet responsibilities as the interim intergovernmental affairs minister.

Here are the poll-by-poll breakdowns of Labrador in 2011.

Here is Penashue’s full statement:

“Due to mistakes that were made by an inexperienced volunteer in filing the Elections Canada return from the last campaign, I appointed a new Official Agent to work with Elections Canada to make any needed amendments to my campaign return.

During the examination we became aware that there were ineligible donations accepted by the former Official Agent.

Although I was unaware of the inaccuracies in the return, I believe I must be accountable to the people who elected me and therefore I am stepping down as the Member of Parliament for Labrador and will seek re-election through a by-election. I will also be stepping down as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.

My record as Member of Parliament for Labrador and Minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government over the past two years is one that I am very proud of.

I have worked to secure federal support for the development of Muskrat Falls, which will lead to $1.9 billion for our economy and thousands of jobs for Labrador. I have also worked with government and private industry to increase internet speed in Labrador, and delivered federal funding to pave the Trans-Labrador Highway.

There is much more to do for the people of Labrador, including protecting our way of life. We have scrapped the long-gun registry despite the efforts of the NDP and Liberals to keep it, and now we must continue to fight to defend the seal hunt against the NDP and Liberal parliamentarians who want to ban it. I will also continue to lead the defence of the polar bear hunt, something that is very important to Labradorians.

And the statement from the Prime Minister,

“The Honourable Minister Denis Lebel, currently the Minister responsible for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, will assume responsibility for Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.

“Minister Lebel is now also responsible for the overall management and coherence of relations with provincial and territorial governments and for strengthening Canadian unity.”

“I would like to thank Mr. Penashue for his service as Minister and to the people of Labrador.”