A senior political staffer in former Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois’s riding said he solicited $10,000 in illegal political contributions to meet party’s funding targets.
During testimony Monday at the Charbonneau Commission into corruption, Ernest Murray said that in 2008 he approached the engineering firm Roche to obtain the funds for Ms. Marois’s riding of Charlevoix.
Testimony from several witnesses as well as police investigations have placed Roche at the heart of elaborate illegal funding schemes in return for municipal and provincial government contracts.
An engineer at the firm, whose name was kept secret because of a publication ban, told Mr. Murray to find him straw names that would be used to write the cheques for money the firm would contribute to the PQ. Under Quebec’s Election Act, only individuals can contribute to political parties and funding from companies and other organizations is prohibited.
According to Mr. Murray, the straw names were never used but nonetheless Roche found a way to make the illegal contribution. In return, the engineer at Roche pressed Mr. Murray into helping the firm receive government contracts.
Roche was seeking to obtain the contracts involving renovation work at a local museum and the regional college in La Malbaie, the commission was told.
Mr. Murray told the commission he refused to help the firm, noting that in any case the PQ under Ms. Marois lost the 2008 election to Jean Charest’s Liberals. His response left Commissioner France Charbonneau perplexed.
“If you didn’t want to give the impression that the money would be tied to anything, why didn’t you tell him that if he wanted the money tied to obtaining contracts, why not tell him to keep the money?” Ms. Charbonneau asked.
Mr. Murray said that is probably what he told the engineer. “I believe I had already told him that,” Mr. Murray responded.
During his testimony, Mr. Murray said he informed Ms. Marois that he solicited illegal contributions from Roche after it was done. He said Ms. Marois was told about the difficulties of raising money for the campaign. Mr. Murray could not recall whether he told Ms. Marois about the straw names.
“I don’t know if I went that far. I don’t know if it was part of the conversation,” Mr. Murray said.
He added that Ms. Marois never reprimanded him for seeking the illegal contributions.
When she ran for the PQ leadership in 2005, Ms. Marois’s campaign was partly financed by engineering firms. After losing the leadership bid to André Boisclair, Ms. Marois left politics only to return as party leader in 2007. Mr. Murray’s testimony appeared to indicate that engineering firms continued to maintain close ties with Ms. Marois during the 2008 campaign.
The Charbonneau Commission is expected to complete hearing testimony at the end of this month or in early July. The inquiry was launched by former Liberal premier Jean Charest in November, 2011, after he bowed to enormous public pressure to examine corruption in the construction industry, the awarding of government contracts and the financing of political parties. The commission will table a report in 2015.