When Tony Accurso the kingpin of Quebec’s construction business and bagman par excellence for a number of major politicians in Quebec (in particular the Liberal Party of Quebec) took the stand to testify last week, much of La Belle Province was waiting with baited breath, to hear what he had to say. This is the moment which many in Quebec and Montreal had been anticipating ever since the Charbonneau Commission had been reluctantly appointed by the Charest government back in 2011 to look into the putrid political culture of back-scratching cronyism between the construction bosses, the engineering firms, the political establishment, and the big unions (in particular FTQ which is the largest labour union in the province.) This moment had, of course, been delayed by Accurso’s series of law suits, the latest of which was rebuffed by the Supreme Court of Canada after it was deemed his testimony would not prejudice Accurso’s pending trial for massive tax fraud and other assorted financial crimes.
So far, if Accurso knows where the dead bodies are buried, he isn’t talking, and apart from his one reference to paying off the election debts of former CAQ MNA (member of the National Assembly) Jacques Duchesneau and former head of the anti-corruption squad (UPAC) for Sûreté du Quebec who is in charge of investigating corruption in politics including Accurso himself, there has been little in the way of explosive revelations. In fact, Accurso seems to be rather relaxed as he banters with Ms. Charbonneau and the Commission’s chief prosecutor, occasionally conveniently forgetting crucial details about his past dealings with the FTQ or some politician whose palm he greased.
As usual, something that is being treated as the biggest news story since PK Subban signed an 8 million dollar a year contract with the Habs, is largely being ignored in the rest of the country. This might be explained by the simple fact that the focus of the Commission by virtue of its mandate, is investigating provincial and municipal graft, and can’t look into federal complicity in any of Accurso’s alleged corruption. Even though we know, for a fact, he has had a hand in federal construction contracts and more alarmingly, he has been linked in the press to Conservative Senator Leo Housakos and former Harper chief of staff Dimitri Soudas
But we don’t need Charbonneau to tell Canadians when we smell a rat. Especially with respect to Accurso’s ties to the federal government and the Conservative Party of Canada. Let’s look at the evidence that should raise alarm bells throughout Canada and merits a deeper investigation into these connections.
Exhibit A: Since 2009 the feds have been dolling out juicy construction contracts all over Quebec as part of the stimulus in their Economic Action Plan designed to mitigate the effects of a massive global recession. Federal government officials have already confirmed that two companies associated with Accurso ( BRP and Transport Excavation Mascouche) were on the receiving end of some of the money intended to help rebuild the Canadian economy.
Exhibit B: Senator Leo Housakos appointed to the Senate of Canada by Stephen Harper, for among other skills, the ability to separate people from their money for Conservative Party candidates, was implicated by the Commission’s investigation in the context of a 2009 meetings that took place between the two men at the uber-exclusive Old Montreal 357c Club and elsewhere.
Exhibit C: Housakos seems to be the liaison between the Prime Minister’s office and Accurso, this time in the case of the federal government’s preferred candidate for the job of President of the Montreal Port Authority , Robert Abdallah. In a 2011 recording that has since been removed by Youtube (for more info on the affair watch the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice take on government spin-doctor and Minister for Democratic Reform, Pierre Polièvre.
Exhibit D: Even more suspicious is former Harper Chief of Staff and Quebec Political operative Dimitri Soudas, at the time still part of the Prime Minister’s inner circle, being named by either Accuro or Bernard Poulin as the man who was capable of “delivering the goods” on the nomination of Abdallah. Though Soudas denied ever having even met Accurso and Abdallah never got the plum job, it remains a mystery who the source of the recording was and what, if any, relationship Mr. Accurso (who apparently recorded all of his telephone conversations, though police are still looking for his cache) had to Soudas and, by extension, the Prime Minister.
Even the Harper government recognized that the situation required federal investigation. In 2009 then Minister of Revenue Minister Jean Pierre Blackburn announced that the Accurso’s construction empire was to be scrutinized for extensive tax evasion which evidently involved an inside job and at least four of the Canada Revenue Agency’s own employees.
Accurso was once quoted as saying that he had worked like a dirty dog to build his empire, implying that he had done everything himself. But we know successful businesses of this scale often require political help and, in this case, we can assume that Accurso had many friends in Ottawa, some of whom no doubt had trouble sleeping as Accurso testified before the provincial judge.
Photo courtesy of Le Devoir.
Other articles by David DesBaillets
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