Members of the construction and real-estate industries travelled far and wide to participate in fundraisers with the Conservative Party's Quebec lieutenant, Christian Paradis.
The Harper government insists that donations of up to $1,100 have no bearing whatsoever on government business, including the awarding of contracts. But the opposition is mounting a co-ordinated attack against Mr. Paradis, the current Minister of Natural Resources who was lobbied by various companies as minister of Public Works in 2008 and 2009.
Mr. Paradis participated in two Conservative fundraisers in the Montreal area in 2009, one for the Conservative association in the city's riding of Bourassa, and the other for his own riding association of Mégantic-L'Érable, south of Quebec City.
Both events were attended by officials from companies outside of Montreal that had received or wanted to receive contracts from Public Works Canada, Elections Canada records show.
During Question Period, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said there was increasing evidence that "a donation to the [Conservative]Party is an excellent investment for businesspeople."
Elections Canada records show that in 2009, the riding association in Mégantic-L'Érable received donations of $1,000 from two officials at real-estate firm Multivesco. The company in Gatineau, Que., later received a $300-million contract from Public Works for a large federal office building. The company's offices are more than a four-hour drive away from Mr. Paradis' riding.
Other people at the fundraiser included officials from large Quebec firms in the aerospace industry with close ties to the federal government, including Rheinmetall Canada, CAE Inc. and Héroux Devtek Inc.
During Question Period, the Bloc focused on the Conservative fundraiser in the riding of Bourassa, which was attended by officials from seven companies involved in a $9-million restoration contract on Parliament Hill.
One of the donors at the event was Cameron D. Forbes, the vice-president of Heather and Little, in Markham, Ont., which specializes in copper roofs and has worked on the Parliament Hill renovations.
"Can [Mr. Paradis]explain [to]us the link between a business in Markham, in Ontario, and the riding of Bourassa in Montreal?" Mr. Duceppe asked in the House.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper answered that his government has tightened rules on political donations, which cannot exceed $1,100 and must be made by individuals, and not corporations or unions.
"One can give modest amounts to political parties. Such amounts are given to all parties, including the Bloc, and to suggest that one can influence the awarding of contracts with that is ridiculous," Mr. Harper said.
House Leader John Baird added that a Bloc MP, Claude Bachand, advocated last year on behalf of a company that had contributed to his riding association.
"I'll turn the question around: Can a Bloc MP be bought for $500?" Mr. Baird asked.