|Canada's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 13, 2012. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
OTTAWA - Beleaguered Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue posted a statement to his constituents Tuesday to express his "surprise" over allegations of 2011 election spending irregularities.
"No one is more surprised than I am at the allegations that have arisen since the campaign. No one is more disappointed," Penashue said in the release posted on his website.
The Labrador MP's office said he was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday and didn't respond to a request to speak later this week.
Penashue, who has allowed other ministers to respond to opposition questions in the Commons about his election spending, vowed he would tell his side of the story during a break week in his riding.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said he was fully expecting Penashue to meet with the public and explain what happened in 2011.
"Unfortunately I really think it is confirming a pattern here of a man who seems incapable of being accountable for what has happened under his watch and incapable of explaining exactly what he is doing at the cabinet table," Angus said. "Is this the standard for cabinet ministers under this prime minister?"
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has also suggested Penashue bought his seat in the last election.
Penashue, who beat out a Liberal incumbent by 79 votes, has come under fire since Elections Canada documents pointed to a sweetheart deal his team arranged with a Labrador airline during the election.
Documents show Provincial Airlines charged $7,000 for flights and wrote off other costs.
Penashue also allegedly received a $5,500 cheque from a construction company during the election, even though corporate donations are banned. Donations from individuals are capped at $1,200.
Penashue's former campaign manager, Reginald Bower, issued an apology last summer for issues in Elections Canada paperwork after it was discovered the team had spent nearly $4,000 more than the legal election spending limit.
Bower has since received an appointment to oversee the federal-provincial board that regulates Newfoundland's offshore oil sector. Penashue says Bower was in charge of bookkeeping during the campaign.