The Bloc Québécois is accusing the Conservative government of engineering a system of giving federal contracts to renovate Parliament buildings to companies whose executives donated money to the Conservative Party.
Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis says he did nothing wrong during a January 2009 Tory fundraiser when he congratulated a Montreal construction executive for winning a Parliament renovation contract. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)During Friday’s question period in the House of Commons, the Bloc named the heads of three companies, including Montreal businessman Paul Sauvé, who received contracts from the Public Works department and made contributions to a Montreal Conservative Party riding association cocktail fundraiser in Bourassa in January 2009.
In turn, Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis, who previously handled the Public Works portfolio, told the House he did nothing wrong at the fundraiser by congratulating Sauvé, whose bricklaying company LM Sauvé won a $9-million contract.
“I can congratulate them, I can say good job,” the minister said in French. “But never did I discuss the contracts with the individuals.”
Bloc MP Pierre Paquette said the Conservatives were setting up the same scheme as previous Liberal governments did with Public Works during the federal sponsorship scandal.
Paradis also noted the contracts were awarded before he became Public Works minister in June 2008.
Sauvé has told Radio-Canada he hired Gilles Varin to lobby for him and paid him $140,000 so he could win a West Block renovation contract that could be worth millions of dollars. Varin, a long-time Quebec Conservative supporter, was not a registered lobbyist.
Sauvé’s company eventually ran into delays and lost the federal contract. But sources confirm the RCMP is investigating how the contract was awarded.
The Conservatives have pointed to the 2006 Accountability Act as evidence they tightened up lobbying regulations in Ottawa, and insist none of their members are being investigated as part the Mounties’ probe.
Varin told Radio-Canada that he felt he didn’t need to register as a lobbyist, because all he did was pass along Sauvé’s resumé to a friend. He also denied receiving any bonuses.
Paradis, who is already under fire for a former aide’s meddling in access-to-information requests at Public Works, was not in charge of the department when the tendering process to repair the Parliament buildings began in 2007. Michael Fortier, an unelected senator, was the minister of Public Works at the time.
More Tory donors got Parliament reno deals: BlocIn Canada on October 8, 2010 at 13:25