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Stonemasons walk off scandal-plagued Parliament Hill job

A construction worker watches as a hole is drilled near the north tower of Parliament Hill's West Block on Oct. 15, 2010.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Work has once again ground to a halt on a scandal-plagued project on Parliament Hill.

Workers from RJW Stonemasons left the construction site on Friday over $200,000 in unpaid bills by L'Unique Assurances Générales, the bonding company that is overseeing the contract.

The project was interrupted for the first time last year when the construction firm that originally won the contract, LM Sauvé, filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving L'Unique Assurances Générales in charge of the project. At the time, Public Works Canada accused LM Sauvé of defaulting on the contract by falling behind on the construction schedule.

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The contract to LM Sauvé was at the centre of a political battle in the House of Commons earlier this month over allegations the company paid $140,000 to an unregistered lobbyist with Conservative ties as part of its campaign to obtain the contract.

A spokeswoman for L'Unique Assurances Générales said that it stopped its payment to RJW Stonemasons after the masonry firm allegedly defaulted on its contract in recent weeks.

Audrey Bouchard of L'Unique refused to go into the details of the dispute with RJW Stonemasons, but said that her company will find another solution to finish the $9-million contract to restore the West Block building.

RJW Stonemasons president Bobby Watt said he is being squeezed out of the masonry job in favour of another firm, and asked the RCMP to investigate.

Mr. Watt's lawyers notified L'Unique that RJW intended to take it to court over $200,000 in unpaid work.

"It has come to our attention that your agent on site ... has been deliberately attempting to interfere with the contractual relations between our client and its stonemasons by deliberately stating that L'Unique's intent is to squeeze out RJW by failing to make payment," said the letter sent last month.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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