Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair refused an envelope that may have contained cash from the mayor of Laval, Que., in 1994 but discussed the matter with law-enforcement authorities only 17 years later.
The incident raises questions about the delay of the disclosure until 2011 but also Mr. Mulcair’s statement the previous year to reporters that he never saw envelopes of cash in the office of long-time Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.
Mr. Mulcair became a member of Quebec’s National Assembly for a Laval riding in 1994, and reports in recent years have said Mr. Vaillancourt offered cash to local politicians in a bid to obtain their loyalty.
Mr. Mulcair acknowledged in a statement on Thursday that he met with Mr. Vaillancourt the year he was first elected as an MNA but that he discussed the meeting with authorities only two years ago.
“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,” Mr. Mulcair said.
The statement corroborated a story in Montreal newspaper La Presse that Mr. Mulcair told police that he felt the envelope likely contained cash and that he had refused it.
After a long career in provincial politics, Mr. Mulcair jumped to the federal stage in 2007, becoming the MP for Outremont. He became the leader of the NDP in 2012 after the death of Jack Layton.
Mr. Mulcair was asked at a news conference in 2010 whether he had ever been offered or seen “envelopes of cash” in Mr. Vaillancourt’s office. He answered, “No.”
The statement is accurate in that Mr. Mulcair apparently did not see the contents of the envelope that Mr. Vaillancourt had offered. Still, the Conservative government slammed Mr. Mulcair for not revealing the meeting for 17 years.
“Thomas Mulcair appears to have kept this sordid affair to himself for 17 years. In 2010, he even denied having ever been offered a bribe,” Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan said in a statement.
Last week, Quebec’s anti-corruption squad arrested 37 people in Laval, including Mr. Vaillancourt, who was charged with corruption and gangsterism. Mr. Vaillancourt has faced other stories of cash and kickbacks at Laval City Hall during his 23-year reign.
He has long denied any wrongdoing and vowed to prove his innocence at his upcoming trial.
In his 2010 comments, Mr. Mulcair criticized Serge Ménard, a former Bloc Québécois MP and Parti Québécois MNA who had acknowledged to the media that he was offered an envelope from Mr. Vaillancourt.
While Mr. Ménard said he refused the offer, Mr. Mulcair raised questions about his failure to report the matter to authorities, given that he went on to become a prominent PQ minister.
“One thing preoccupies me with that is that a person who went on to become justice minister and public security minister felt that he couldn’t do anything about it,” Mr. Mulcair said at the time.
He added that when someone raised a case of potential wrongdoing with him, “I invited the person to go to the police.”