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Couillard pushed Quebec City project to Tories after firm lost Montreal bid DANIEL LEBLANC AND INGRID PERITZ With reports from Tu Thanh Ha in Toronto and Rhéal Seguin in Quebec City June 13, 2008 OTTAWA AND MONTREAL -- The Kevlar Group was losing out on a major federal contract in Montreal in early 2007 at the same time as Julie Couillard started lobbying two senior Conservative officials in favour of another one of the company's projects in Quebec City, according to government records and sources. Kevlar wanted to spend up to $25-million to develop a large swath of land that belonged to Canada Post on the Montreal harbourfront. However, another Crown corporation, Canada Lands, used its right of first refusal and snagged the 60,000-square-metre property in a deal that was officially announced on May 2, 2007, a spokesman for Canada Lands confirmed. Kevlar was believed to be unhappy in Montreal when its postal-site bid was rejected, according to a real-estate consultant. "They [Kevlar] probably invested a lot of time, money and energy in their building proposal, which they thought was the best," said a source familiar with the project. "Then Canada Lands turned around and said, 'We'll develop the site.' " Print Edition - Section Front Enlarge Image More Front Page Stories Couillard pushed Quebec City project to Tories after firm lost Montreal bid About the same time, Kevlar was bidding on another federal project worth about $30-million for a building in Quebec City to house 750 bureaucrats. In the House yesterday, the Opposition expressed clear concerns that the company used Ms. Couillard to infiltrate the government in an attempt to ensure it would win that contract. Ms. Couillard was finishing her training as a real-estate agent at the time, and had obtained an affiliation with the firm's real-estate branch. In the spring of 2007, she started dating, in succession, two senior Conservative officials: Public Works adviser Bernard Côté and industry minister Maxime Bernier. According to senior federal officials, Ms. Couillard directly discussed Kevlar's bid in Quebec City with Mr. Bernier and Mr. Côté. Mr. Bernier has since resigned after classified documents were left in April at the home of Ms. Couillard, who had lived with two men with ties to the Hells Angels in the 1990s. Mr. Côté resigned this week after telling his superiors about Ms. Couillard's lobbying efforts and acknowledging he should have recused himself from the file to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. As The Globe and Mail reported yesterday, Kevlar co-chair Philippe Morin introduced Ms. Couillard and Mr. Bernier to one another in April in a restaurant in Montreal. A source added yesterday that Mr. Bernier and Mr. Morin might have known one another through their respective involvement in a group called the Young Presidents' Organization. Mr. Morin is the son of a well-known book publisher in Quebec. Kevlar officials refused repeated requests for comment yesterday, and did not expand on their previous statement that their link to Ms. Couillard was simply related to her real-estate licence. In the House of Commons, the Liberals accused Ms. Couillard of attempting to "infiltrate the Conservative government." "She tried to influence real-estate contracts at Public Works," said Montreal Liberal MP Marlene Jennings. According to news reports, Kevlar was founded by president René Bellerive in 1996, with Mr. Morin becoming a partner in 1999. The firm has acquired and built a number of commercial buildings and condominiums in Montreal and Quebec City, often with other financial partners. Kevlar and its owners have also donated thousands of dollars to federalist and separatist parties, in Ottawa and Quebec City, with the first recorded pledge to the Conservative Party, for $1,000, coming in the months after the Tories were elected to office. The government did not directly address the opposition's concerns in the House yesterday, except to say there has been no decision on the Quebec City project, on which Kevlar is one of about two dozen bidders. Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan accused the opposition of wasting time by holding a parliamentary inquiry into the matter. "It is about finding sordid stories that can make for good news for those who are into gossip and that sort of stuff, but it is not about the important questions of public policy," he said. Regarding the Montreal project, Kevlar submitted an initial $25-million bid for the site in 2006. After several extensions to conduct due diligence, the firm submitted a lowered offer for the property on Feb. 28 of last year. Kevlar's deal fell through when Canada Lands matched its $18-million offer. "The company that bid on the site put in an offer, and we matched it," said Gordon McIvor, vice-president of Canada Lands.
Quebec Tories swapped ad expenses, Elections Canada alleges TIM NAUMETZ The Canadian Press July 22, 2008 at 9:26 AM EDT OTTAWA — The Conservative Party shifted thousands of dollars in advertising expenses from two of its top Quebec candidates to other Quebec candidates who had more spending room in their 2006 federal election campaigns, the lawyer for Elections Canada has suggested. A former financial officer for the party confirmed last month in a court examination that expenses incurred by Public Works Minister Christian Paradis and former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier were assigned to other candidates. But former chief financial officer Ann O'Grady said the expenses were “prorated” to the other candidates because the firm that placed the television and radio ads billed Mr. Paradis and Mr. Bernier for higher amounts than their campaign agents originally committed. Elections Canada lawyer Barbara McIsaac probed Ms. O'Grady over records involving an eventual claim for $20,000 in radio and TV advertising by Mr. Paradis and $5,000 in advertising claimed by Mr. Bernier. The financial statements and invoices – filed in a Federal Court case concerning $1.3-million in questionable Conservative ad expenses – also showed that Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis paid a fraction of the ad production costs compared with other Tory candidates. Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis are among 67 Conservative candidates whose advertising expenditures are under investigation by the federal elections commissioner. Agents for some of the candidates took Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand to Federal Court after he refused last year to reimburse the expenditures on grounds that they did not qualify as local candidate expenses. The Commons ethics committee is also conducting an inquiry into the bookkeeping, which Elections Canada alleges allowed the Conservative party to exceed its national campaign spending limit by more than $1-million. The Canada Elections Act prohibits candidates from absorbing or sharing the election expenses of other candidates. NDP MP Pat Martin, a member of the ethics committee, said if the party did shift expenses from Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis to other candidates it would add an entirely new dimension to the controversy. “I can't get (fellow NDP MP) Judy Wasylycia-Leis to put $5,000 of my expenses into her expenses,” Mr. Martin said. “That's absolutely not allowed.” In a sworn cross-examination last month, the transcript of which was subsequently entered in the Federal Court file, Ms. McIsaac pressed Ms. O'Grady about advertising and ad production costs that were transferred from Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis to other candidates. Ms. McIsaac challenged Ms. O'Grady's explanations that the expenditures were reassigned because the candidates had been mistakenly invoiced for more than the amounts their official agents originally committed for the campaign. “I'm going to suggest to you that Mr. Bernier was less than $2,590 from his spending limit and that he couldn't afford to put the additional amount into his return,” Ms. McIsaac said to Ms. O'Grady. “That would be total supposition,” Ms. O'Grady responded. “Who knows what else would have been going on at the time? I can't comment on how Mr. Bernier ran his campaign.” In the case of Mr. Paradis, Ms. O'Grady conceded that the candidate had originally committed his campaign to a media buy totalling $30,000, was eventually invoiced $29,766 and subsequently received a “credit note” of $10,000 that was reallocated to another candidate, Marc Nadeau. “Now, again, the reason for this was that Mr. Paradis had reached his limit with respect to spending as well, is that correct?” Ms. McIsaac asked. “He had to allocate some of his money to Mr. Nadeau, did he not, because he was close to his limit?” “I would not know that,” replied Ms. O'Grady, who replaced former Tory chief financial agent Susan Kehoe several months after the election. Ms. McIsaac also questioned Ms. O'Grady over the fact that Mr. Bernier paid no production costs for his share of the advertising. Mr. Paradis paid only $233.93 for his share, even though Ms. McIsaac said other candidates paid $4,500 each for production costs.
Bernier a dépensé 22 573 $ pour un billet d'avion Le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Maxime Bernier. Photo PC La Presse Canadienne Toronto Le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Maxime Bernier, et son équipe ont dépensé des dizaines de milliers de dollars en frais de voyage pour assister à une conférence de deux jours au Laos l'an dernier. Le Toronto Star rapporte que le vol du ministre a coûté 22 573 $, avec une escale à Paris. Le journal affirme avoir étudié le prix des billets d'avion pour l'Asie du Sud-Est et prétend que M. Bernier aurait pu voyager confortablement vers le Laos pour moins de 7000 $. Selon les dossier mis en ligne dans le site du ministère des Affaires étrangères, trois membres du personnel du ministre étaient eux aussi du voyage: le vol de deux d'entre eux aurait coûté 18 500 $ chacun, alors que celui du troisième n'aurait coûté que 2676 $. Le vol de M. Bernier constitue le vol le plus cher d'un ministre ou d'un représentant officiel depuis que Stephen Harper est arrivé au pouvoir il y a deux ans, selon le Star, qui a passé en revue les documents comptables du gouvernement. Le directeur des communications du ministre Bernier, Neil Hrab, a indiqué au quotidien torontois que son ministère étudiait actuellement les rapports de dépense. http://www.cyberpresse.ca/article/20080516/CPACTUALITES/80516264/1019/CPACTUALITES