One of the people arrested in the latest police sweep in Montreal was hired as a Conservative ministerial aide shortly after he failed in his bid to win a seat for the party in the 2011 election.
Saulie Zajdel worked in the office of Heritage Minister James Moore from October, 2011, to March, 2012. Officially, Mr. Zajdel was hired to act as “a liaison between the Government and the city’s cultural communities.”
However, the Liberals felt that Mr. Zajdel was actually trying to mount a second bid to win the seat of Mount Royal, a traditional Liberal stronghold that has been heavily targeted by the Conservative Party, given the riding’s strong Jewish community. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler complained at the time that the Conservatives were spreading rumours that he was about to resign and force a by-election in the riding, and argued that Mr. Zajdel was actually trying to act as Mount Royal’s “shadow MP.”
In a statement on Monday, Cotler said that “everyone benefits from the presumption of innocence and thus I have no comment while the police investigation and related process in this matter are ongoing.”
On Twitter, however, Liberal MP Bob Rae pointed that Mr. Zajdel was hired by the Conservatives “to undermine Irwin Cotler.”
In a statement, a spokesman for the Conservative Party said Mr. Zajdel’s arrest came as a surprise.
“He did not disclose this to us through the screening process, nor did this come up in the background checks,” said Fred DeLorey. “He’ll need to face the consequences if he broke the law in any way.”
The opposition parties have been trying to highlight the links between the Conservative Party and members of Montreal’s embattled political class. In particular, the opposition has asked a number of questions in the House about Leo Housakos, a Conservative senator who used to be active in Montreal politics and once worked for an engineering firm.
In addition, a former vice-president at another engineering firm, Dessau Inc., testified at the public inquiry that his firm illegally reimbursed political donations made by senior staff to a federal party, without providing further details.
According to police, the arrests of Mr. Zajdel, as well as Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum and former municipal bureaucrat Jean-Yves Bisson, are linked to real estate deals and allegations of bribery. Mr. Zajdel, a former city councillor in Montreal, has been charged with five counts of breach of trust, fraud and corruption.
In March of last year, Mr. Zajdel spoke about his job with a Canadian Press reporter as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Montreal for a visit. The reporter asked Mr. Zajdel about his salary.
“Oh, [it’s] not as much as I want it to be,” Mr. Zajdel said. When asked how much he’d like to earn, Mr. Zajdel replied: “Something in the six digits and it’s not that.”
According to Canadian Press, Mr. Zajdel refused to provide further details about his actual job description.