By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
A little more of the back story to this week’s news about Thomas Mulcair and the envelope.
In November 2010, Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard, since retired, alleged that, in 1993, he was offered a cash-filled envelope by the mayor of Laval. On November 16, 2010, Mr. Mulcair—nearer the end of a news conference with Pat Martin about Louis Riel—was asked about the controversy.
Two questions for Mr. Mulcair. One, you might have heard of allegations of the mayor of Laval handing out cash in envelopes. Were you ever offered cash in an envelope by the mayor of Laval? Did you ever see cash in envelopes around the mayor of Laval?
Mr. Mulcair responded as follows.
No. And one thing preoccupies me with that is that a person who went on to become justice minister and public security minister, felt that he wouldn’t do anything about it. In my career, the only time anybody ever came up to me with an issue they described had happened to them, that would’ve constituted an offence, I invited the person to go to the police and when they said they weren’t sure if they could do that, I said that I would do it myself and I did. And it had nothing to do, by the way, with Laval city hall. It was an issue involving somebody in the work that I was doing at the time. So I’ll leave it to you to sort out the different versions that are no doubt going to come out today. But all I can say is, as a citizen, I’m worried with regard to our democratic institutions when someone who went on to become justice minister and public security minister says he didn’t seem to have anything he could do about it and in regard to those institutions I think it’s a serious preoccupation for all of us.
As the Canadian Press noted yesterday and the Globe’s Daniel LeBlanc notes in his story, whether Mr. Mulcair saw what was in the envelope that the mayor of Laval alleged brandished during the 1994 meeting—apparently before Mr. Mulcair was elected, for whatever that is worth—is a matter of some debate. But the Conservatives seem to be trying to chide Mr. Mulcair now in a similar fashion to the way Mr. Mulcair chided Mr. Menard in 2010.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
In the wake of a report from La Presse about Thomas Mulcair’s statements to police about a meeting with former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, the NDP released a statement from Mr. Mulcair this morning.
In early 2011, I met with the police in order to help in their investigation.
I gave to them my account of a meeting I had with Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt dating back to 1994.
As is indicated, I effectively and immediately ended the meeting with Mr. Vaillancourt.
This matter is currently before the courts and I will therefore avoid further comment.
The Conservatives followed that with a statement from Peter Van Loan.
The Canadian Press summarizes.
A statement from House Leader Peter Van Loan accused Mulcair of remaining silent about corruption for two decades. It also accused him of lying during a 2010 press conference, when he said he had never been offered a bribe during his time in Quebec politics…
It’s unclear whether Mulcair was in fact lying on Nov. 16, 2010, when a journalist asked at an Ottawa press conference whether he had ever been offered cash envelopes by Vaillancourt and he said: “No.” The report in La Presse said Mulcair told police he’d actually left the 1994 meeting without opening, or accepting, a white envelope and did not know for sure that there was cash inside.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Government House Leader’s statement on bribery allegations in La Presse
Here’s a statement from Government House Leader Peter Van Loan regarding La Presse’s revelation that former Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt allegedly attempted to bribe NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair when the latter was a provincial MNA.
According to Radio-Canada [ed's note: it was actually La Presse's exclusive] Thomas Mulcair has known about corruption in Quebec politics since 1994, when the Mayor of Laval allegedly offered him “help” in the typical Liberal style: an envelope. Thomas Mulcair appears to have kept this sordid affair to himself for seventeen years. In 2010, he even denied having ever been offered a bribe. Yet after seventeen years of silence, Mulcair finally spoke up after investigations were already underway in 2011. As a result, Thomas Mulcair could be called before the Charbonneau Commission to explain his (in)action.
Mulcair kept his firsthand knowledge of corruption from the public for two more years, before choosing to dump it today, when he felt the media would be distracted by other stories.
This presents some difficult questions for Mr. Mulcair:
Why did he protect Gilles Vaillancourt and cover up this alleged criminal activity for 17 years?
Why did it take a public inquiry into the biggest corruption scandal in Canadian history for Thomas Mulcair to finally come clean with Canadians?
Why did Thomas Mulcair lie and say he was never offered any money by Gilles Vaillancourt?
Will he agree to appear if called to testify under oath before the Charbonneau Commission?
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:21 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin on the unprecedented allegations against Laval’s former mayor
It’s worth just taking in the story as a headline: “Former Mayor of Quebec’s Third-Largest City Charged With Gangsterism.” Then you flick on the telly and see that, yup, there he is, Gilles Vaillancourt, the mayor of Laval for nearly a quarter-century, in the back of a police car, wearing a gray suit and a faint smile as he stares straight ahead. Vaillancourt was one of 37 people charged today in a massive sweep by UPAC, the province’s anti-corruption squad.
The charges are harsh and, as far as I know, unprecedented for a Quebec politician. Until now, the charge of gangsterism has been reserved for the likes of bikers and the mafia—organizations that exist solely to enrich themselves through crime. In charging him with gangsterism, the police are effectively alleging Vaillancourt is in league with the likes of the Hells Angels and Montreal’s Rizzuto clan.
Speaking of the arrests, Robert Lafrenière of the anti-corruption police task force UPAC said, “The structure observed and which seemed to have been put in place by the accused corresponds to the criteria contained in articles 467-12 and 467-13 of the criminal code.” It’s a telling statement: these articles of law specifically refer to “criminal organizations,” suggesting police believe Vaillancourt was part of a group that was knowingly enriching itself through criminal actions. The penalties are stiff: up to life imprisonment in the case of 467-13.
To understand what police believe constitutes this criminal organization, take a look at the list of people arrested alongside Vaillancourt. The vast majority of the arrestees are from the construction and engineering domains. (Laval is booming, by the way; its population has grown by nearly 9 per cent between 2006 and 2011.) Construction magnate Tony Accurso, also hauled in by police this morning, did a huge amount of business in Laval, nabbing 25 per cent of the city’s construction contracts between 2001 and 2008, according to La Presse. “It is widely known that Mr. Accurso has direct access to the offices of Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt,” wrote La Presse’s Bruno Bisson and André Noel in 2009.
Also arrested: Rosaire Sauriol of Dessau, the engineering consulting firm. Sauriol, a Dessau executive, testified earlier this spring at the so-called
Charbonneau commission investigating corruption in the province’s construction industry that his firm had forged invoices to the tune of $2 million in order to fund municipal and provincial political parties. Headquartered in Laval, Dessau was also a prolific mainstay on Laval’s many construction sites. Interestingly, Claude DeGuise, a former Dessau executive who became the head of Laval’s engineering division, was also arrested. So was Vaillancourt’s brother Guy.
Here’s the other interesting thing about Gilles Vaillancourt: he knows everyone. He is (or was) close to the Liberal Party of Quebec. Former Liberal cabinet minister Michelle Courchesne, also from Laval, was often in the company of the mayor; a 2008 Le Devoir article quotes a former NMA as saying the two are “very close.” Strangely, the record of the press conferences the two held together appear to have been scrubbed.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:10 AM - 0 Comments
The inside story of the man at the centre of the storm
Lino Zambito is many things, not all of them good. The former contractor, would-be construction magnate and budding restaurateur is currently facing, he estimates, “about 12” fraud, collusion and breach of trust charges for, among other things, his role in an alleged bid-rigging scheme in the Montreal suburb of Boisbriand. In April, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to subvert the outcome of a municipal election in that same community. Two days after Maclean’s met with him at the strip-mall pizzeria he now runs, Revenu Québec officials raided it in search of some $38,000 in unpaid taxes. And as the owner of the construction company Infrabec, he has, by his own admission, spent much of the last decade participating in a system that bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
Yet it is precisely because of his misdeeds, or at least his willingness to talk about them under oath, that Zambito is something of a folk hero in Quebec these days. Subpoenaed on Sept. 5—one day after the Quebec election—by the commission investigating the province’s notorious construction industry, Zambito testified for eight days, and what came out of the tall, beefy 43-year-old’s mouth shocked a province and arguably brought a premature end to the careers of two big city mayors.
As a contractor in Montreal, Zambito says he participated in bid-rigging schemes involving the Rizzuto Mafia clan that usually culminated with mobsters stuffing wads of cash into their knee-high socks in the ill-lit backroom of a north end coffee shop. He not only kicked up a cut of his profits to those mobsters but also to various municipal and provincial political parties as well.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 12:39 PM - 0 Comments
LAVAL, – A statement from the City of Laval, Que., says the municipality’s scandal-plagued…
LAVAL, – A statement from the City of Laval, Que., says the municipality’s scandal-plagued mayor has not decided to resign.
At least not yet.
The statement from the city executive committee says Gilles Vaillancourt is still reflecting on his political future and will make an announcement when he decides what to do next. He has been on leave for unspecified medical reasons.
The statement today rebuts a news report that said Vaillancourt would resign on Tuesday or Wednesday, in the wake of recent scandals.
A witness at a public inquiry has accused Vaillancourt of pocketing kickbacks from construction contracts. He has also been accused, over the years, of offering provincial politicians cash bribes. Vaillancourt has angrily denied those accusations.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
Charbonneau commission, fall session: All eyes on Laval’s Gilles Vaillancourt and Montreal’s Gérald Tremblay
In the end, Donnie Brasco didn’t show up.
For days now, Montreal media has been salivating at the prospect that one of the FBI’s most famous agents would be testifying at the opening day of the commission investigating corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. For good reason: under the moniker Donnie Brasco, Joe Pistone infiltrated New York’s Bonanno clan, and for six years gathered intelligence that would drive a stake through the heart of one of America’s biggest crime families. Also, Johnny Depp played him in a movie. You decide which is more impressive.
Pistone might well still show up at the so-called Charbonneau Commission, whose 18-month mandate includes the examination of the industry’s ties with organized crime. When I asked if Brasco was showing up, as Radio-Canada reported last week, commissioner spokesperson Richard Bourbon smiled. “We never said he was coming in the first place,” he said, winking.
Instead, the first day of the commission’s fall proceedings—Maclean’s wrote about the spring/summer session here—with Judge France Charbonneau essentially pleading with journalists to behave themselves. “The imperative is on the security of the witness, we can’t have them put in danger,” Charbonneau said in her opening remarks. “We are asking the media, with respect, to not publish the names of witnesses before they appear.”
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 7 Comments
Corruption allegations fly, but voters love him
The cabane à sucre is an annual rite for many Quebecers, and on a recent Friday afternoon, 650 golden agers from the city of Laval, a vast suburb north of Montreal, bused into the nearby town of St. Eustache to eat crepes with maple syrup, cretons, and maple syrup-flavoured fèves au lard, and to indulge in a spot of line dancing. Aside from the festive sense common to sugaring-off events, though, this one had a spirit of civic pride. “Our mayor is number one!” said Gino, an ebullient 58-year-old. “Every year he invites us here.” “It doesn’t cost us anything. It’s a gift from Mayor Vaillancourt,” said Gabriel, who along with his wife was on his fourth free cabane à sucre outing.
Indeed it was: the merry event was entirely paid for by PRO Lavallois, the political party that has governed Laval for 22 years—the last 10 unopposed. Paying for seniors to go to a cabane à sucre has been a tradition for over 15 years. Over the course of two days, the party footed the bill for some 2,600 seniors, at an estimated cost of $16 per person, and most were quite appreciative. Attendees interviewed by Maclean’s said cabane à sucre was something they looked forward to every year. Across the room, the object of their affection, Gilles Vaillancourt—the bespectacled 70-year-old architect of PRO Lavallois’s two-decades-long supremacy and a man currently mired in allegations of bribery, favouritism and influence peddling—shook every hand, listened to every anecdote and chuckled graciously at every joke.
The event had all the hallmarks of a campaign stop, down to the huge “Team Vaillancourt” banners decorating the sugar shack and the PRO Lavallois pens handed to every senior as they left. Yet the next election isn’t for two years, and the people in attendance aren’t all PRO members. Arguably, Vaillancourt wouldn’t need to campaign even if there were an election—he beat his last opponent by nearly 40 percentage points in 2009. He just seems to love doing it.
By Paul Wells - Friday, November 19, 2010 at 6:00 AM - 51 Comments
Envelopes stuffed with cash, more nastiness and name-calling—and silence from the House?
We now update you on the emotional state of the House of Commons.
On Sept. 29, after this magazine ran a cover story calling Quebec the most corrupt province in Canada, the lower house of Parliament voted unanimously, more or less, to express “its profound sadness at the prejudice displayed and the stereotypes employed by Maclean’s magazine to denigrate the Quebec nation, its history and its institutions.”
This concludes your update on the emotional state of the House of Commons. Your MPs have not passed any motions describing their emotions since. We can only speculate on their mood at Bloc MP Serge Ménard’s claim this week that Gilles Vaillancourt, the mayor of Laval, gave him an envelope with $10,000 cash in it when Ménard was preparing to run for the National Assembly in 2003.
Does this news sadden the Commons, even a little? Does it make the lower house giggly? Your guess is as good as mine.