The mayor of Laval said he “wanted to help” as he offered an envelope in a backroom in 1994 to Thomas Mulcair, the Leader of the NDP who was a candidate for the Quebec Liberals in a provincial election at the time, according to a sworn affidavit. (Read the statement in French)
Mr. Mulcair told the story to Quebec police 17 years after the fact, in 2011, as part of a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of corruption and fraud in Laval, a booming city north of Montreal.
Mr. Mulcair said he was taken by surprise by the offer from Gilles Vaillancourt, the long-serving mayor who resigned in disgrace last year and is now facing a series of charges, including gangsterism.
In a sworn statement that has been obtained by The Globe and Mail and La Presse, Mr. Mulcair told police the offer of an envelope made him uneasy, even though he was unaware of its specific content at the time.
“He said, ‘I would like to help,’ and he was repeating it,” Mr. Mulcair said in the statement. “I said, ‘I have a good campaign, everything is going well, thank you Mr. Vaillancourt.’ I physically stepped back. I promptly put an end to the meeting, shook hands and left.”
Mr. Mulcair is facing Conservative attacks since La Presse revealed last week that he had received an offer of an envelope from Mr. Vaillancourt. The initial story did not include the full details of Mr. Mulcair’s version of events, as laid out in the sworn statement that is now being made public.
In particular, Mr. Mulcair is facing questions about his failure to report the offer to authorities at the time.
In addition, Mr. Mulcair will have to explain specifically why he publicly denied to the media, in 2010, ever being offered an “envelope of cash” from Mr. Vaillancourt when he was running in a provincial riding of Laval.
Mr. Mulcair can be expected to state that he was unaware of the specific content of the envelope that was offered to him, and thus state that he was truthful in his answer that he never saw envelopes of cash in Mr. Vaillancourt’s office.
Still, Mr. Mulcair’s statement to police confirms that he thought it was likely that the envelope contained money.
There have already been media reports of two other former Laval MNAs who were offered envelopes of cash by Mr. Vaillancourt, namely former Parti Québécois minister Serge Ménard and former PLQ MNA Vincent Auclair.
Mr. Mulcair said he discussed the matter in 2006 in an impromptu and informal conversation with Mr. Auclair.
“He told me something which was similar to what I went through, with an important difference: I cannot state, because it would be false, that Gilles Vaillancourt offered me money. In fact, he never spoke about money,” Mr. Mulcair said.
Mr. Mulcair said during their meeting, Mr. Vaillancourt “held something in his hand, which I could interpret and in the context of what came out in terms of Mr. Ménard and Vincent Auclair, it’s clear that it was something that could be interpreted as such. But he did not give me anything, he never spoke about money,” Mr. Mulcair said.
Earlier this month, Quebec’s anti-corruption squad arrested 37 people in Laval on a series of fraud and corruption charges, including Mr. Vaillancourt. He has long denied any wrongdoing and vowed to prove his innocence at his upcoming trial.
In his 2010 comments to the media, Mr. Mulcair criticized Mr. Ménard over 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 in 2010.
Mr. Mulcair added that when someone raised a case of potential wrongdoing with him, “I invited the person to go to the police.”