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Ethics commissioner won’t investigate Penashue conflict of interest complaint

Former cabinet minister Peter Penashue is pictured at a news conference in November, 2012. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a by-election for the seat vacated by Mr. Penashue last month, after he acknowledged his campaign received ineligible donations in the 2011 general election.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Canada's conflict of interest and ethics commissioner says she won't investigate complaints about how the federal byelection in Labrador was called.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had asked the commissioner to examine whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper's actions amount to a conflict of interest.

A similar complaint was filed by accountability group Democracy Watch.

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May asked why former Labrador MP Peter Penashue was allowed to make a $1.4-million spending announcement in Labrador four days before he resigned over illegal campaign donations.

May also asked whether Harper was advancing Penashue's personal interests by allowing him to run before prosecutors have decided whether to lay charges.

Penashue blamed mistakes made by his former official agent and is running for re-election in a byelection Monday.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson says May's request did not set out reasonable grounds to believe the Conflict of Interest Act was contravened.

She says actions to improve a candidate's election prospects don't necessarily advance private interests.

Dawson also says the fact that Harper and Penashue were cabinet colleagues does not show they were friends as defined under the Act.

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