Quebec corruption probe focuses on public contracts

Gifts given to a member of a Transport Department contract selection committee, inquiry hears

January 30, 2013
by Canadian Press

MONTREAL—A witness at Quebec’s corruption inquiry says his engineering firm funneled thousands of dollars in contributions to political parties in the last decade in the hope of getting an advantage when it came to securing public contracts. Michel Lalonde, president of Genius conseil, says gifts were also given to a member of a Transport Department contract selection committee.

The testimony was among the first at the inquiry into construction industry corruption that pointed a finger beyond bid-rigging at the municipal level. Lalonde says that the contributions to various provincial parties were made by many employees at Genius and their spouses—and they were reimbursed. Such a practice is illegal, as it is used to circumvent the law that bans corporate political donations and sets limits on donations from individuals.

Lalonde also testified that Gilles Thibodeau, a member of the Genius board, gave gifts to a man who sat on a Transport Department committee that recommended firms for contracts. Among the gifts to Claude Millaire between 2004 and 2010 were a camera and cash in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $3,000. His cellphone bill was also paid for him, between 2004 and 2010.

Lalonde said the Millaire continued to co-operate with Genius when Thibodeau left the company. The inquiry has already heard about some illegal donations at the provincial level, but so far has mostly focused on systematic corruption schemes alleged to have occurred in municipalities.

Lalonde’s testimony January 29 followed allegations that he and his firm had contributed to Vision Montreal, the city’s main opposition party, as well as the political campaigns of the mayors of several boroughs around Montreal. Two of those mayors had made the jump to municipal politics from the provincial Liberal caucus in the legislature.