The federal Conservative Party received donations from dozens of employees at three engineering firms now implicated in high-profile police investigations into Quebec's construction industry.
Such donations to Canada's governing party, and to a lesser extent the opposition Liberals, illustrate that federal politics is no stranger to the corporate ties now being scrutinized by police and an upcoming provincial inquiry in Quebec.
As Ottawa unveiled billions in economic stimulus spending in 2009, Conservative coffers in one Montreal riding were flooded with contributions from individuals affiliated with firms that have since become mired in collusion scandals.
A special Quebec task force has been investigating the role of engineering-consulting firms in wider scandals over collusion, kickbacks, Mafia ties, illegal political financing and money-laundering that have raged at the provincial and local level.
Little has been written about the industry's ties to federal politics.
An analysis by The Canadian Press of federal data indicates that donations from certain firms, now under scrutiny, helped transform one Tory association in a no-hope Montreal riding into an improbable financial juggernaut in early 2009.
In Laurier-Sainte-Marie, a left-leaning fortress home to some of the most progressive politics in the country, the Tory riding association pulled in $288,823.37 in donations that year – despite the party placing fifth there in the previous election, behind the Green party.
In 2009, that riding association managed to rake in more than five times as many funds for the Conservative Party of Canada as Calgary Southwest – the one held by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which raised $57,103.75.
The prime minister's appearance at a May 20 fundraiser, attended by dozens of engineering executives, is partly responsible for the fundraising windfall in Laurier-Sainte-Marie.
Donations in the riding came from employees associated with BPR; Roche Ltd.; and Leroux, Beaudoin, Hurens & Associes, which are among the largest engineering-consulting firms in Quebec.
All three have had employees arrested in the last year as part of an ongoing investigation into Quebec's construction industry. In the case of BPR, the firm itself is also facing fraud and conspiracy charges.
Law enforcement officals claim to have uncovered a system in which municipal politicians received kickbacks in exchange for lucrative contracts to upgrade local water installations.
Jean Leroux, who heads Leroux, Beaudoin, Hurens and Associates, was among 15 people arrested earlier this month on charges related to the alleged collusion scheme in the town of Mascouche, just off the island of Montreal.
Mr. Leroux donated $666.66 to the Laurier-Sainte-Marie association in 2009. He is expected to make a court appearance on June 19.
On the same day Mr. Leroux made his donation, France Michaud gave $400 to the Tory association in Laurier-Sainte-Marie.
A vice-president at Roche, Ms. Michaud was arrested in 2011 for allegedly taking part in a similar scheme in Boisbriand, another off-island municipality. She has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the charges she faces, and continues to work at Roche.
Their donations coincide with the elaborate Tory fundraiser held in Montreal on May 20. Sources told The Canadian Press at the time that Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos was one of the key organizers of the event – though he denied playing a role.
Ms. Michaud and three executives from BPR were invited to an exclusive gathering held before the main event. It was hosted by Christian Paradis, who was then the minister of public works and the senior minister responsible for Quebec.
At the time, the Conservative government was looking to spend $4-billion on construction-ready infrastructure projects as part of its $47-billion economic stimulus program.
This money was largely transferred to the provinces, who in turn made it available to municipalities. In other words, Ottawa was not the one cutting cheques for the companies performing much of the infrastructure work – that was done at the municipal or provincial level.
A spokesperson for Mr. Paradis, now in charge of the industry portfolio, said the minister doesn't even recognize Ms. Michaud's name.
Mr. Housakos, however, would have been familiar with at least some executives at BPR. He was hired by BPR in 2008 to run a wholly owned subsidiary, Terreau, specializing in environmental waste management.
As part of his contract, he was to be offered a number of BPR shares annually depending on his performance. Despite being named to the Senate only days after formalizing his relationship with BPR, Mr. Housakos continued working for the company for nearly a year, until the fall of 2009.