During his March appearance at the inquiry, Sauriol was asked whether he used the same strategy to channel money to federal parties and he replied: “Yes.”
Such illegal donations would not have appeared in the Elections Canada database pored through by The Canadian Press.
No further details about federal contributions emerged from Sauriol’s testimony.
Records from Elections Canada show he personally gave two donations to the Bloc for a total of $304. Between 1993 and 2006, his family’s company, Dessau, and its subsidiaries contributed a total of $246,368 to federal parties, primarily to the Liberals, and to a lesser extent the Progressive Conservatives and the Bloc.
There have been other examples of the probe sniffing along the periphery of Quebec provincial politics.
While questioning witnesses, Charbonneau commission lawyers have twice raised the name of Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing and they did not explain why they were asking about him.
A commission lawyer suddenly started questioning the head of the BPR engineering company about Housakos’ previous work at the firm and his appointment to the Senate.
Sources have told The Canadian Press that the senator helped organize a lucrative 2009 Conservative fundraiser – featuring a speech by Prime Minister Stephen Harper – that was attended by numerous engineering-industry employees.
Housakos admitted to soliciting a donation from his former BPR boss at the time, but he said he did not have any formal role in the Montreal event. The federal ethics officer, meanwhile, cleared Housakos in 2009 of any conflict of interest related to his time at BPR.
Housakos has since expressed frustration at what he describes as a smear-by-association campaign and a “witch-hunt” atmosphere around the inquiry.
Housakos has also threatened to sue different media, including The Canadian Press, over their news reports about the inquiry testimony.
The list of construction-industry players at that fundraiser included Sauriol and former SNC-Lavalin boss Pierre Duhaime, who is now facing fraud charges.
Federal agencies, meanwhile, are watching the inquiry from the sidelines.
The Competition Bureau of Canada says it has met with Charbonneau Commission officials to explain its mandate, which includes investigations into bid-rigging.
The bureau has also been involved in raids and seizures by Quebec’s anti-corruption police unit, known by the acronym UPAC, which was created by the Charest Liberals.
“Going forward, the bureau will co-operate with the Charbonneau Commission as requested in the limits of the law,” spokesman Phil Norris said in an email.
A spokeswoman for Election Canada would not say whether it was looking into any allegations that have emerged at the inquiry, noting that it never confirms or denies whether complaints have been received and investigations are underway.
She did say the agency is following the inquiry’s deliberations.
The elections watchdog, meanwhile, announced last week that it laid seven charges against the official agent for defeated Liberal candidate Jean-Claude Gobe in the Laval, Que., riding of Alfred-Pellan in the 2006 election.
Among the charges, Elections Canada alleges that the official agent, Jacques Chouinard, failed to open a separate bank account in a Canadian financial institution solely for Gobe’s campaign.
Gobe is now running for mayor of Laval in the November municipal election, seeking to replace two recent predecessors who successively resigned in scandal.
The Charbonneau inquiry has heard how construction-industry players used political donations and other gifts to win favour with provincial politicians in hope of unlocking public contracts.
Gilles Cloutier, a retired engineering executive and political organizer, testified that the industry systematically bankrolled municipal election bids illegally; then, once its allies took office, companies cashed in on rigged infrastructure contracts.
He said he then used political donations to make connections at the provincial level, and would lobby his contacts at that level of government to fund municipal projects he’d lined up.
Cloutier described how he used events with celebrities, including Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, to bring together his municipal allies and influential provincial contacts.
Some of Cloutier’s testimony has been disputed by people he implicated.
He said the vast majority of money collected by political parties in Quebec is illegal. He estimated that less than 10 per cent of funds collected at the municipal level, and 20 per cent at the provincial level, actually came from legal eligible donors.
In Quebec, Cloutier said it was easy to find people willing to pose as donors because not only were they reimbursed, they received a tax break.
“The director general of elections didn’t check and it was easy to find strawmen because of the tax credit,” he told the inquiry in April. “Everyone called me because it was essentially a $300 gift.”
Cloutier mentioned during his testimony that he worked on federal election campaigns. Commission lawyers did not probe him for details about his role in national politics.