Tory Senator Leo Housakos, embroiled in an ethics controversy over a stimulus contract, is accusing one of his own Conservative caucus members of trying to trip him up.
Mr. Housakos blamed his troubles on "somebody in my own caucus," and said, "I'm going to take care of him soon," La Presse reported Wednesday.
The Senate Ethics Officer, at Mr. Housakos's own request, is looking into the matter of a Montreal engineering firm for which the senator worked winning a $1.4-million stimulus contract. BPR and a consortium will be studying possible repairs or reconstruction of the aging Champlain Bridge.
Mr. Housakos's accusations about his own party were greeted with some amusement by other members, who said privately he is wasting time looking for enemies in his own fold.
A source said he told his colleagues at a Quebec caucus meeting Wednesday he had pre-cleared his business arrangements with the ethics officer in the past and that he wasn't even working for BPR when the company won the contract.
BPR and the BCDE consortium won the contract on Sept. 21. Mr. Housakos's declaration to the ethics officer said he left the company Oct. 1.
Mr. Housakos and BPR said he had nothing to do with the contract, and worked for BPR's wholly owned subsidiary TerrEau, which had no contact with the federal government.
The 41-year-old senator wields important power in the party as one its key organizers in Quebec, skills he honed when he worked with Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and as head of the Action Democratique du Quebec's fundraising arm.
On May 20, Mr. Housakos organized a major Conservative fundraiser in Montreal featuring Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for which he was roundly congratulated.
Some of the figures on the guest list that night would go on to be placed in high-profile government posts within a matter of weeks or months.
Jean-Martin Masse: The lawyer and Montreal businessman was appointed to Via Rail's board of directors on June 19, 2009. He and Mr. Housakos were members of the Progressive Conservative party's youth wing and worked together within the ADQ. Mr. Masse was an executive at an advertising firm that provided technical assistance to Mr. Housakos to do business under the firm's name in Greece.
Nick Katalifos: a long-time Montreal school prinicipal was appointed to the Employment Insurance Board of Referees on Sept. 9, 2009. He and Mr. Housakos co-founded a small international consulting firm called Quadvision International.
Claude Carignan: the mayor of Saint-Eustache was appointed to the Senate on Aug. 27, 2009. He and Mr. Housakos worked together at the highest levels of the ADQ, where Mr. Carignan was a party co-founder.
Both the Conservatives and the Liberals routinely appoint Senators with heavily partisan backgrounds.
Mr. Masse, the son of former Tory cabinet minister Marcel Masse, said he did attend the fundraiser in May, and that Mr. Housakos did do business with his former employer Zoom Media while he was there as vice-president of corporate and regulatory affairs.
He is described by businessmen who know him in Montreal as a bright young lawyer. Mr. Masse is currently chief administrative officer and general counsel for major electronic games developer Artificial Mind and Movement.
Mr. Katalifos did not return a call by The Canadian Press. But Mike Cohen, a spokesman for the English Montreal School Board, described him as one of the best-known and devoted of the board's principals.
Mr. Housakos is a close friend of Mr. Harper's senior aide Dimitri Soudas, and both previous worked together at Montreal City Hall. In 2007, he was appointed to Via Rail's board of directors. By December 2008, he had moved on to the Senate.
Mr. Soudas underlined in an interview that all the appointments were made by their respective government bodies, and only qualified individuals are selected. Mr. Soudas said in the case of Mr. Masse at Via Rail, his appointment was recommended by the transport minister. In the case of Mr. Katalifos, his appointment was overseen by the human resources minister.
Still, Mr. Soudas acknowledged that the government "indicated its preference" when the Port of Montreal, another federal arm's length agency, was trying to choose a new president in 2008.
The government's candidate was Robert Abdallah, former director general of the City of Montreal. Although Mr. Soudas personally met with the Port of Montreal's board on the issue, Mr. Abdallah was not chosen as president.
Government guidelines specify that annual retainers for directors on federal boards can range from $2,600 to $10,300, and pay for each day spent working on the boards can range from $160-$800. Travel and other expenses are also covered.
Opposition parties are demanding questions about that stimulus money, after The Canadian Press reported that Mr. Housakos worked for BPR when they won the contract. The MPs are also asking about the appropriateness of two members of Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridge Inc. (JCCBI) also attending the fundraiser. The Federal Bridge Corp. Ltd. and JCCBI are looking into the matter internally.