Feds Embroiled in Engineering Firm Scandal

Quebec engineering firms scandal

The federal government has become embroiled in scandal as three Quebec engineering firms whose employees donated to the party have more recently been linked to collusion scandals.

The three firms in question are BPR; Leroux, Beaudoin, Hurens & Associes and Roche Ltd., each of which rank among Quebec’s largest engineering consulting firms.

A total of 15 employees from the three firms were arrested as part of an investigation into the province’s construction industry. BPR also faces charges of fraud and conspiracy. Those arrested include Leroux, Beaudoin, Hurens & Associes head Jean Leroux, who donated $666.66 to the Conservative Party of Canada Association in the riding and Roche Ltd. vice president France Michaud, who donated $400.

The donations are said to be linked to a May 20 fundraiser at which Harper and multiple engineering firm employees embroiled in the scandal were in attendance.

Corporate donations are illegal, and some look at the donations by individual employees of certain firms as a means of skirting the law, essentially using those employees as a vehicle through which corporate donations can be made to look like private donations.

A task force has been struck in Quebec to look into allegations that the firms partook in collusion, kickbacks, ties to the Mafia, money laundering and illegal campaign contributions. The firms’ employees’ donations to the Tories came in Laurier-Sainte-Marie, a Liberal stronghold.

Despite the riding’s left-leaning ways, the Conservatives raised $288,823.37 in the riding in 2009, when the Harper government announced billions of dollars in stimulus spending. That amount more than quintuples the amount raised by the Tories in the riding held by Prime Minister and Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

When the fundraiser was held, the Conservatives were looking to funnel $4 billion into construction-ready infrastructure projects to help stimulate the Canadian economy following the global financial crisis. Executives from Roche Ltd. and BPR were invited to a private gathering prior to the fundraiser. That event was hosted by then-minister of public works Christian Paradis.

While the feds’ money was distributed to provinces instead of handed out directly to companies, the Canadian Press reported that Conservative Senator Leo Housakos was believed to have been a key organizer for the event, a claim Housakos denies.

The senator has ties to BPR, however, having been hired to run a BPR-owned subsidiary in 2008. He worked for BPR for nearly a year after being appointed as a senator and was to be given shares in the company as part of his contract, another charge he refutes. He has been cleared of allegations that he used his position in the senate to help secure contracts for BPR by the Senate ethics commissioner.

Andre De Maisonneuve, also of BPR, has also been charged with fraud and conspiracy surrounding his handling of municipal contracts, while BPR employees Rosaire Fontaine and Claude Briere were arrested in 2011 in an investigation over the awarding of municipal contracts. Both have been pegged as Tory donors.

According to BPR, Briere has left the company while De Maisonneuve and Fontaine are on administrative leave while an internal investigation takes place.

The Liberal Party of Canada has also received donations from BPR board members, which the donations coming in the Chambly-Borduas riding, which pulled in $470,755.41 in 2009. That riding also saw a wellspring of donations from top law firms in Montreal.

While the donations have been painted in a negative light by some, the Laurier-Sainte-Marie Tories also received large donations from other engineering firms that are not under scrutiny. Employees of CIMA, a top Quebecois engineering company and one that faces no criminal allegations, donated nearly $10,000 to the Laurier-Sainte-Marie riding association.

Housakos said it was hardly damning that the Conservatives received donations from engineering firms, whether or not they were under investigation, arguing that no wrongdoing occurred through the solicitation and donation of funds.

“It’s pretty clear the people that make contributions,” Housakos was quoted as saying in the Canadian Press. “If you look at various reports you’ll know who they are. Their names speak for themselves. Those are my friends, that is my network, and I have a democratic right to solicit people.”

However, Lino Zambito, a construction boss who was charged and subsequently pled guilty to election tampering in Boisbriand said engineering firms hold sway in political circles. He told Radio-Canada that the firms often ask construction companies for help in securing lucrative contracts and that working to fix an election in exchange for favours after the fact does occur.

That allegation would appear to be backed by incidents in 2010 that led to engineering firm Axor and others pled guilty to 40 counts of breaking election laws in Quebec.

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