October 22, 2010

Mediator in government renovation project donated to Tories


A consultant hired by the federal government to smooth out disagreements in a controversial Parliament Hill renovation donated money to attend a Conservative fundraiser, The Canadian Press has learned.

Howie Clavier says he did nothing wrong by paying $500 to attend the fundraiser put on by a contractor because he saw it as a good opportunity to network with people involved in the West Block project.

But some are questioning whether an impartial mediator and facilitator should be mixing government business with party politics.

The opposition is already calling for the resignation of Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis for his involvement in the project and the fundraiser, raising the prospect that the Tories took kickbacks in return for handing out government contracts.

Public Works brought in Clavier to run several “partnering sessions’’ for the companies involved in the renovation contract, which is being probed by the RCMP and a parliamentary committee.

The department gave Resolution Alliance Inc., where Clavier works, a one-year contract for $26,000 in August 2008. The work is summarized on a proactive disclosure website as “engineering consultants - construction.’’

Clavier said he ran one full-day and two half-day partnering sessions. He also attended meetings at the construction site once a month.

Elections Canada records show Clavier donated $500 to the Conservative riding association in Bourassa, in the Montreal area, in January 2009.

Clavier said that was the fee to attend a fundraiser for the riding association. He said he was invited by construction boss Paul Sauve. Sauve’s company, LM Sauve, won a $9-million contract for the West Block project in 2008.

Sauve says he paid Tory-connected businessman Gilles Varin to help get the contract. His company went bankrupt a year later and lost the job. The Mounties are now investigating the deal.

Paradis, who was public works minister at the time of the fundraiser, was guest of honour at the event.

“It just said, this is a fundraiser and a chance to meet the minister. And that’s all it said,’’ Clavier said.

“There was no reason given. If there was a reason, if it said ‘This is a political fundraiser and this is for certain reasons,’ I probably would have stayed away.

“I can very ill-afford to pay $500 out of my pocket, but I went because I thought it would be good to maintain good relations with the various people that I was trying to maintain good relations with together.’’

Sauve said he threw the fundraiser at the behest of Varin and the head of the Conservative riding association in Bourassa, Gilles Prud’Homme.

Paradis got into hot water last week for changing his story about the fundraiser. He initially maintained he did not discuss any government business at the event.

“At no time was there any discussion about government business,’’ he told the House of Commons this month. “It was strictly a fundraising event.’’

He later changed his story and said he congratulated Sauve for winning the West Block deal.

Canadian Press

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