Contractor says Liberals only honoured contract after fundraiser
Published Thursday, September 19, 2013 6:39PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 20, 2013 7:18AM EDT
MONTREAL - Two narratives emerged from the Charbonneau Commission Thursday, one involving a debate over union wiretaps, while the other dealt with a contractor who said that the Liberals only greenlighted a deal he snagged under the previous government after he organized a cocktail fundraiser.
The powerful FTQ labour union is digging in against the Charbonneau Commission, which it argues has no right to hear two years of police wiretaps made of its president Michel Arseneault and Guy Gionet, who ran the real estate side of the FTQ
The lawyer for the union, Jean-Claude Hébert said Thursday that wiretaps should be used for criminal trials rather than such “administrative investigations,” and using them would constitute a violation of privacy.
The wiretaps were part of the Operation Diligence, in which police investigated the infiltration of organized crime into the legal economy, specifically into the construction industry.
The union leaders were not accused of any crimes as a result of the wiretaps recorded by the SQ provincial police between 2007 and 2009.
The FTQ lawyers have filed a motion arguing that the broadcast of surreptitious recordings violates the Article 193 of the Criminal Code, as well as sections 7 and 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Commission Chair France Charbonneau wants to access the tapes and had a testy encounter with the union lawyer, who seemed almost ready to concede that his protestations would be overruled.
“Do you think I am naive and I'll leave here with the conviction that I have convinced you that you do not have the jurisdiction to hear the wiretap? Frankly, not at my age,” said Hebert.
“Maybe because you look deep inside you that you are wrong,” replied Justice France Charbonneau.
The case was taken under advisement.
The fund the FTQ controls has more than $9 billion in net assets and is the largest of its kind in the country.
It would feel the biggest impact from a move, announced in the last federal budget, to phase out a tax credit for union-backed mutual funds. The Harper government argues that the credit leads to inefficient investment decisions at a cost of $140 million a year to the federal treasury.
The role of construction unions, and the FTQ fund, is expected to be a major focus of the Quebec corruption inquiry this fall.
The hearings will resume on Monday, September 30.
Fournier denies cocktail contract story
In other Charbonneau Commission-related news, former Liberal cabinet minister Jean-Marc Fournier has denied allegations that he only honoured a construction contract promised by the previous PQ government after the contractor attended a Liberal party cocktail fundraiser.
Paul Sauvé told the commission that a $2 million contract he was given to repair the St. James United Church on Ste. Catherine in downtown Montreal was not immediately honoured by the Liberals after they replaced the Parti Quebecois in 2003.
Sauvé consulted lawyer Marc- André Blanchard, who advised him to call the BCP communications firm.
Sauve told the commission Thursday that Jean-Louis Dufresne of BCP counseled him to approach the Liberal government to get his contract.
Sauvé says he contacted 15 to 17 people to attend a cocktail fundraiser at the Newtown bar in November 2003, which he says was attended by 50 guests who paid $1,000 each.
He received the contract only after the fundraiser.
BCP issued a press release Thursday in which it categorically denied that it advised Sauve to hold a fundraiser for Fournier and the Liberals.
Fournier denied that the contract Sauve received had anything to do with the cocktail fundraiser.
-With files from The Canadian Press