OTTAWA — The Conservatives are moving to distance themselves from an RCMP probe into a $9-million government renovation contract involving a bankrupt Montreal construction firm and a Tory organizer.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said no members of his government are under investigation in the matter.
“On the contrary, if there are contractors that broke the law, we have rules, and they’ll have to deal with the full force of the law,” he told the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The RCMP’s Montreal division is investigating the Parliament Hill renovation contract. A spokeswoman said the Mounties received a complaint and have launched a probe, but she wouldn’t divulge any more details.
“We have received a referral in this matter,” Cpl. Caroline Letang said Wednesday. “An investigation is going on.”
The Globe and Mail and CBC reported that the force is looking into the relationship between Montreal company LM Sauve and Tory organizer Gilles Varin.
LM Sauve won the $9-million contract to restore Parliament Hill’s West Block in May 2008. The company filed bankruptcy papers a year later.
The news reports say LM Sauve hired Varin to help win the contract from the Public Works Department, and paid him $140,000 from 2007 to 2009.
The RCMP investigation reportedly centres around lobbying rules and anti-corruption laws.
The Conservatives refused to say if Varin is a party member.
Liberal public works critic Geoff Regan said the whole thing “smells.”
“According to these reports, there’s clear evidence of abuse and corruption in the awarding of contracts and this raises questions like how extensive this is and how high does it go,” he said. “There certainly appears to be a pattern of Conservative insiders accessing ministers’ office. I mean, when you have an unregistered lobbyist getting $140,000 over two years for lobbying on one contract, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find that totally wrong.”
The Tories rode the Liberal sponsorship scandal into office and have hammered the Grits with it for years. Regan noted the similarities and said the Harper government “should go ahead and do what we did and call a public inquiry.”
“The Conservatives walked into Ottawa on a horse named accountability and now it’s a laugh line.”
Regan suggested that the allegations of corruption may be linked to the fact that the West Block renovation is over budget and behind schedule.
“I think that’s very much a question that has to be examined because it’s a running joke around here how long it’s taken the West Block work to be done.”
Bankruptcy documents obtained by The Canadian Press reveal LM Sauve’s liabilities totalled nearly $12 million at the time the papers were filed.
A bonding company has since taken over the contract from LM Sauve. The cost of the restoration work has increased by nearly $600,000 to $9.9 million since the project started.