Accurso tells of close friendship with labour brass
Published Tuesday, September 2, 2014 7:39AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 2, 2014 5:37PM EDT
MONTREAL - Former Montreal construction magnate Tony Accurso appeared cooperative and at ease when talking about his rise in the construction industry in Quebec as he took the stand at the Charbonneau Commission for the first time Tuesday following months of attempting to avoid testifying.
A full house watched on, leading Charbonneau to ironically ask what could have attracted so many people to the hearings.
Accurso's publication ban request was debated in the morning and Charbonneau ruled against the request just before the lunch break.
Accurso had previously devoted considerable effort at avoiding the commission altogether, arguing that testifying at the inquiry would jeopardize his right to a fair trial in pending criminal proceedings.
“The commission rules that Accurso's rights are sufficiently protected,” she said, and ordered him to take the stand without further delay.
When he finally began to testify, Accurso spoke with ease and at length, requiring little prompting.
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Accurso told the hearings that he started working for his father’s construction company at the age of six. He worked at the company – which became Louisbourg Construction – during the summer while studying civil engineering at Concordia University in Montreal.
Accurso took the reins from his father and said that he had big ambitions. “I was interested in complicated projects, big jobs,” he said.
Accurso eventually partnered with Marcel Melancon, who introduced him to Louis Laberge, who went on to become the founder of the FTQ Solidarity Fund.
Accurso said that he was scared of the powerful Laberge but Melancon eased his fears and the two eventually had dealings with each other and the two became close.
Accurso said was one of the early investors in the FTQ Solidarity Fund – and it paid off. Investments allowed his company to expand, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
“Our philosophy was to keep construction sites as active as possible all year round so people could work,” he said.
He became a little ruffled when he accused his brother-in-law Mario Taddeo of telling lies about him due to a family dispute.
Despite that, after spending so much time and energy fighting the Charbonneau Commission to avoid testifying, one might have expected Accurso to be a hostile witness at best.
Accurso smiled throughout his testimony, volunteering answers and playing the role of a patriotic man eager to help Quebec's economy.
“We never forgot our roots,” he said, summarizing his success with a former hotdog slogan.
“The more people eat them, the fresher they are, the fresher they are the more people eat them,” he said.
The commission is now expected to ask considerably more pointed questions regarding allegations of corruption and price fixing.
Hydro Quebec to be examined
Earlier in the proceedings Prosecutor Sonia Lebel laid out some of the future groundwork for the hearings, which will eventually focus on contracts handed out by Hydro Quebec, which was accused of being a hotbed of collusion in testimony prior to the summer break.
The inquiry has already heard from more than 100 witnesses since it came into existence in 2011.
-With a file from The Canadian Press