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Ottawa paid $28 million for leases to Liberal donor's businesses


After months of silence, the federal government finally disclosed that it has paid $28 million for leases to businesses owned by Liberal Party of Canada donor Pierre Guay in connection with irregular migrant crossings along the Quebec-U.S. border.

The amount is contained in a document sent to members of the House of Commons ethics committee on Monday, the same day they heard from initial witnesses in their investigation into Roxham Road spending.

Radio-Canada recently revealed that, according to its compilation, Ottawa paid more than half a billion dollars in public funds to reimburse costs paid by Quebec or to pay suppliers. This money was used to rent land and hotels and to install trailers.

The public broadcaster noted that it was impossible to know the value of all the contracts awarded by Ottawa because the government hid behind confidentiality requirements.

Among these, Radio-Canada mentioned seven untendered leases with companies owned by Guay.

In its written response to the ethics committee, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) indicated that nine leases were entered into between May 2017 and October 2022, five of which are still active.

"All of these leases are associated with land and premises located near the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing," it said.

As of Oct. 1, $15.8 million has been paid to Guay's companies for leases and $12.3 million for leasehold improvements. In addition, PCPC reported that Guay's companies received $683,000 for "maintenance-related service contracts."

During an appearance before the ethics committee on Monday afternoon, PSPC officials said the department is still conducting analyses to get the best possible price even though no bids are being sought.

"We have a whole team that looks at what the market value is in a certain environment. We do a market value analysis and then we enter into negotiations," said Stéphan Déry, assistant deputy minister of real property Services for PSPC.

He said the influx of migrants required urgent facilities and Guay was the only contractor willing to meet that need.

"Guay owns the majority of the land (located in the area). He was indeed the only one who was willing to support our clients when the situation began in 2017. So our in-house experts negotiated the lease by mutual agreement," said his colleague Françoys Bernier, PSPC's acting general manager for the Quebec region.

Guay was scheduled to appear before the ethics committee later Monday.

According to the Elections Canada database, he gave thousands of dollars in contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada, but also to the Conservative Party of Canada when it was in power.

Roxham Road, located in Quebec's Montérégie region, has been used by a host of potential asylum seekers since 2017. This unofficial crossing is being used because of the Safe Third Country Agreement.

This agreement ensures that a potential refugee who shows up at an official Canadian border crossing and having first set foot on American soil is turned away since he must pursue his asylum claim in the first "safe place" where he arrived.

Some people who still wish to claim asylum in Canada cross the Canada-U.S. border through makeshift crossings, such as the Roxham Road in Monteregie. Once they are in Canada, their asylum claims can be processed.

The Bloc and New Democrats have long called for the suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, want the agreement to be applied uniformly along the entire border, regardless of whether or not they are official ports of entry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Oct. 17, 2022. Top Stories

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