05/07/2015 11:02 EDT | Updated 05/07/2016 05:59 EDT

Reginald Bowers, Peter Penashue's Official Agent, Charged Under Elections Act

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The official agent for a former federal Conservative cabinet minister from Labrador has been charged under the Canada Elections Act with failing to return ineligible campaign contributions and submitting false documents.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections, Yves Cote, issued a statement Thursday saying Reginald Bowers is facing three charges stemming from the 2011 federal election.

A call to Bowers' home was not returned Thursday.

Bowers was the agent and campaign manager for Peter Penashue, who was intergovernmental affairs minister before he resigned his Commons seat in March 2013 over donations he accepted during the 2011 campaign.

That same month, Elections Canada documents posted online showed Penashue refunded almost $50,000 in improper donations.

An amended return for the 2011 campaign showed Penashue's campaign accepted 28 separate illegal contributions.

The Labrador MP paid the federal Receiver General $47,660 in four separate instalments, meaning the donations were non-monetary contributions that couldn't be refunded to the donors.

On Thursday, Elections Canada confirmed Bowers has been charged with failing to return ineligible contributions made to the candidate within 30 days either to the contributor or in a contribution to the chief electoral officer.

Bowers also faces two charges of providing the chief electoral officer with a document that he knew or ought to have known contained a statement that was false or misleading.

Those charges separately relate to accurately identifying ineligible campaign contributions and failing to accurately report travel expenses.

The charges were filed by the Office of the Public Prosecutor on May 6, 2015 in the provincial court of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.

A few months after Penashue quit Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, he represented the Conservatives in a Labrador byelection, which he lost to Liberal Yvonne Jones.

In the 2011 federal election, Penashue won his seat by just 79 votes in an upset over Liberal incumbent Todd Russell. At the time he was the only Tory MP from Newfoundland and Labrador.

An initial Elections Canada review subsequently showed Penashue spent $5,000 over his limit of just under $84,500. He also appeared to have accepted thousands of dollars in free flights across his expansive, remote riding.

Among the refunded donations is an entry for $18,710 for Provincial Airlines Ltd. Penashue also refunded $5,500 from a St. John's construction company that had listed the donations under five individual employees. All the other ineligible donations were for $1,100 each or less.

The former Innu Nation leader spent months under fire from opposition critics as other cabinet ministers defended him in Parliament before he resigned.

At the time, Penashue blamed the campaign problems on Bowers, who he described as an "inexperienced volunteer."

Bowers was subsequently appointed by the federal government to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which regulates the oil sector, but quit the post soon after Penashue announced his resignation.

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