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The construction magnate, the Hill reno deal and a minister's $5,000 coat

Workers install a protective barrier over West Block during continuing renovations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Oct. 15, 2009.


The owner of a construction firm who won a Parliament Hill renovation contract testified that a portion of the $140,000 in payments he made to a lobbyist with Conservative ties were likely redistributed to various party officials.

Speaking before a parliamentary committee, LM Sauvé president Paul Sauvé said he is convinced the retainer payments he made to Gilles Varin between 2007 and 2009 were essential to the fact that his company obtained the $9-million contract to renovate West Block in 2008.

"Because we paid, we received," Mr. Sauvé said.

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Mr. Sauvé added that Mr. Varin, a plugged-in Conservative partisan in Montreal, frequently mentioned that he worked with government contacts as part of his lobbying efforts. Mr. Sauvé said he gained a clear sense that Mr. Varin somehow compensated these people.

"Yes, I thought that there were payouts that were made," Mr. Sauvé said, adding that Mr. Varin boasted that he walked the corridors of power "with felt boots."

Mr. Sauvé also testifed about a cocktail party that he organized in 2009 as a fundraiser for a Conservative Party riding association in Montreal. Mr. Sauvé said that the guest of honour at the event was Christian Paradis, the minister of Public Works at the time.

Mr. Sauvé said the event was held in an Italian restaurant he described as mediocre. At the end of the event, it was discovered that Mr. Paradis's coat had been stolen.

The following day, Mr. Sauvé said, he received a call from one of Mr. Paradis's aides who asked for an identical cashmere coat to be bought for Mr. Paradis at Holt Renfrew, at a cost of more than $5,000.

Mr. Paradis acknowledges that the coat was stolen but denies that he directly or indirectly asked for compensation.

After Tuesday's testimony, Mr. Paradis's spokesman said the minister simply asked the Conservative riding association if he could be compensated $400 for the theft.

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Spokesman Richard Walker said that in addition to losing his coat, Mr. Paradis lost his keys, which forced him to replace a number of locks at his house.

"The coat was worth $900," said spokesman Richard Walker, saying it was bought at a wholesaler in Mr. Paradis's riding.

The request for the compensation was made by one of Mr. Paradis's staffers, who spoke about the matter to Gilles Prud'Homme, a senior official in the Conservative riding association of Bourassa.

Mr. Prud'Homme would have directed the request to Mr. Sauvé, who said at the committee hearing that he was deeply "insulted" by the request.

Mr. Sauvé began his testimony by laying out the history of his family firm, which was started by his grandfather more than half a century ago and included work on a building in Montreal operated by the Canada Security Intelligence Service.

While the company filed for bankruptcy protection last year, Mr. Sauvé said the firm is still active and has offices across the country, although he acknowledged the firm was hurt by cost overruns of $4.7-million on a church restoration in Montreal.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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