Canadian Press Analysis: Corruption Suspects Gave $2 Million to Federal Parties

Article excerpt

Corruption suspects gave $2 million federally: CP

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MONTREAL - Dozens of suspects accused of corruption at Quebec's municipal and provincial levels have also been involved in national politics, giving more than $2 million in donations to federal parties, an investigation by The Canadian Press has revealed.

An analysis by The Canadian Press involving all 102 individuals charged after sweeps by Quebec's anti-corruption police squad shows that nearly half -- 45 of them -- made registered legal contributions to federal parties from 1993 to 2011.

The actual extent of their connections to federal politics, however, may never be known.

An ongoing public inquiry in Quebec has heard explosive allegations about illegal political financing, bid-rigging, collusion and Mafia ties in the province's construction industry, but it does not have a mandate to explore whether such activities have occurred in the federal realm.

At the inquiry, industry players have described using political donations to gain influence at the provincial level and help unlock public funding for projects that had frequently been rigged at the municipal level.

Which begs the question: Has this occurred elsewhere in Canadian politics?

There have been only glancing and peripheral references to federal politics at the inquiry, which resumed this week after a summer break.

But Elections Canada's records do offer information on many of the 102 individuals charged following investigations by the province's anti-corruption squad -- a list of people that includes industry executives, engineers, city officials, municipal politicians and lawyers.

The Canadian Press examined their donation history as well as the federal contributions of all 13 companies charged by the same Quebec corruption-fighting unit, which was created in February 2011.

Records show that more than three-quarters of those companies -- or 10 firms -- gave federal political donations between 1993 and 2006. Corporate donations in Canadian politics were restricted in 2003, then banned entirely in 2006.

The analysis also counted donations to federal parties made by construction companies where some of the 102 individuals held powerful positions, such as owner or senior executive. The Elections Canada online database only goes as far back as 1993.

Altogether, the contributions from the individuals and the companies, which were amassed over two decades in more than 900 donations, totalled nearly $2.2 million.

Those political donations sent to Ottawa were tiny, compared to the volume of public contracts being issued in the other direction.

Bureaucrats from the Public Works department have been paying close attention to the Charbonneau inquiry and compiling a list of contracts awarded to companies mentioned there.

Montreal La Presse, the first news organization to report on that list, said Thursday that the document already includes more than 1,700 federal contracts awarded since 1993, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

One federal cabinet minister famously warned a decade ago about the adverse influence of money in politics.

At the time, Sheila Copps argued in favour of an outright ban on corporate political donations, saying it was necessary to keep companies from influencing government decisions.

Copps said back then that corporate pressure hindered the Chretien government's efforts to implement key policies of the Kyoto climate-change accord.

She suggested in a more recent interview that construction industry players also curry favour with politicians in pursuit of their financial interests.

"Engineering firms attach to political parties because they want infrastructure contracts -- it's not rocket science," said Copps, who noted that the allegations heard at the Quebec inquiry aren't restricted to that province.

"If you went in and did a Charbonneau (commission) in any part of the country, you'd probably find people that have had vacations . …