New (old) details on the Sauvé-West Block renovation story

Myth: Sauvé says that he discussed contracts with Christian Paradis. Therefore Liberals suggest Conservative political interference in granting the West Block renovation contract to Sauvé.

La Presse, August 25, 2008

Le plus récent contrat est celui de 8,9 millions pour la réfection de l’édifice de l’Ouest du parlement canadien, un contrat qui a été «obtenu par appel d’offres et sans aucune implication politique», ajoute [Sauvé]. Évidemment, il s’agit d’un nouveau client fort intéressant puisque tout le programme de restauration des édifices parlementaires à Ottawa est évalué à un milliard.

The latest contract is $ 8.9 million for the rehabilitation of the West Block of the Parliament of Canada, a contract that was “obtained through competitive bidding and without any political involvement,” [Sauvé] adds . Obviously, this is a very interesting new customer since the whole program to restore the Parliament buildings in Ottawa is valued at one billion.

Fact: La Press quotes Sauvé in 2008 that the contract was “obtained through competitive bidding and without any political involvement.” In news stories this week, the Canadian Press alleges that Sauvé hired “Tory connected” businessman Gilles Varin to obtain the contract. Sauvé’s earlier quote contradicts the latest narrative from the press and from Sauvé that the Tories had their mitts in the West Block renovation contract.

Myth: Sauvé and Varin are Conservatives. Contracts were obtained were granted because of political favouritism.

Journal de Montreal, June 18th 2009 (after that Tory fundraiser)

Selon ce que le Journal a appris, le président de l’entreprise en faillite LM Sauvé avait confié à plusieurs personnes, dont quelques ténors libéraux, qu’il songeait à se présenter à l’investiture du Parti libéral du Canada pour le comté d’Outremont.

Il a rencontré le lieutenant politique de Michael Ignatieff au Québec, Denis Coderre, pour lui faire part de ses intentions. M. Coderre, qui ignorait tout des liens de Paul Sauvé avec le crime organisé, l’aurait encouragé à vendre des cartes de membres comme d’autres candidats à l’investiture.

The Journal has learned, the president of the bankrupt company LM Sauvé had told several people, including some big liberals, he considered running for the nomination of the Liberal Party of Canada for the County of Outremont.

He met with political lieutenant in Quebec by Michael Ignatieff, Denis Coderre, to inform him of his intentions. Mr. Coderre, who knew nothing of Paul Sauvé links with organized crime, have encouraged the sale of membership cards as other candidates for the nomination.

Fact: Varin has never been an organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada nor has he ever been a member of it according to party records (confirmed by the Party in a release this week). Sauvé was a Tory to the degree that he told Liberals that he was considering running for the Liberal Party in Outremont.

Myth: Liberal hands are clean in this affair. They certainly didn’t advocate for Public Works to support Sauvé’s company and project.

Le Droit, April 15th 2009

Une faillite de L. M. Sauvé pourrait avoir un effet domino sur la trentaine d’entreprises de la région impliquées de près ou de loin dans le projet. Pour le député de Hull-Aylmer, Marcel Proulx, chacun doit mettre de l’eau dans son vin pour minimiser les pertes. « En période difficile, j’assume que Travaux publics fera tout en son possible pour empêcher qu’il y ait faillite de l’entrepreneur général, ce qui amènerait une pluie de faillites chez les sous-traitants, dit-il. J’espère que Travaux publics agira en bon père de famille. »

A bankruptcy of L. Sauvé could have a domino effect on the thirty companies in the region involved directly or indirectly in the project. The member for Hull-Aylmer, Marcel Proulx, says everyone must put water in his wine to minimize losses. “In difficult times, I assume that Public Works will do its utmost to prevent there being a general contractor’s bankruptcy, which would cause a rain of bankruptcies among subcontractors, he said. I hope that Public Works will act as a good father.”

Fact: Marcel Proulx is the Liberal MP for Hull-Aylmer. Mr. Proulx went on record expressing his desire that Public Works support Sauvé’s company and its project.

Throne Speech and Fall Election

The Parliamentary break is effectively over as Ottawa Hillites are speculating about the future of the government, of Stephane Dion’s career and, of course, about a future election which would significantly affect both.

The traffic levels at Blogging Tories shook off the relatively low summer numbers on the night of the Quebec by-elections and traffic patterns are back up to normal as they were prior to the break. While Parliament has not yet resumed, everyone is hungry for politics.

Everyone, that is, except for the Canadian electorate. Just as I laughed when the Liberals said it back when they had a minority government, the other day I had to chuckle when a heard a Conservative tell a reporter on TV that “Canadians don’t want an election right now”. For people that watch politics, an election is like the Olympics; an election only happens every two years and it’s what the political junkie lives for, and what their “heroes” train for. Politicians and reporters can easily find themselves out of touch with the Canadian reality as they try and match Wellington st. with Main st. Do Canadians want an election right now? It’s pure speculation.

However, we can be sure about a few things concerning this fall in politics. First, the Liberal leader Stephane Dion and the Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe came from quite a beating in those Quebec by-elections a couple of weeks ago. Despite this, Duceppe has released his demands for the throne speech including some particularly difficult requests for the government to meet including the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan and the cessation of federal spending powers in Quebec. Some say that Duceppe is staking his priorities against Harper to show that the Bloc is the real champion of Quebec’s interests when the Prime Minister inevitably turns him down.

As for Stephane Dion, it is pretty much assured that the professor doesn’t want to fight the Prime Minister at the moment. The Liberal party lacks momentum, especially in Quebec, a traditional stronghold. Dion has also made some lofty demands of the Prime Minister including a similar demand for withdrawal from Afghanistan after February 2009, and a promise to keep the Liberals’ controversial private members bill on Kyoto alive. If the Prime Minister balks at a clear position on both, the Liberals for their sake will at least have two wedge issues to run a campaign on.

Despite this, Dion must not be particularly excited about his prospects. If anyone around him is telling him privately that they are excited about an imminent election, he should fire them now. Dion still has a lot of building (and recovering) to do if he is to even crack Harper’s incumbent seat total, not to mention score a weak minority. As opposition leader, Dion will not vote for the throne speech, but it will be difficult to abstain from it as well as such a move plays towards the “not a leader” narrative and the Conservatives will capitalize on this. Likely, the plan for Dion is to show up, make a symbolic vote against the government but ensure enough of his MPs “have the flu” as would be needed to allow the renewed mandate of the government to pass, but allow him to save face with Canadians. However, if we see too many Liberals show up to defeat the government’s throne speech, it may be a sign of Ignatieff and Rae supporters showing up to eject Dion via election. Pundits will say that Dion couldn’t count that day, however, it may be indicative of some Liberals ready to push Dion on their own sword.

We haven’t been hearing too much from the NDP regarding their demands for the throne speech and I think that this is indicative of their intent to support the government. Layton may have realized that with newly acquired momentum from Outremont, there’s more wedging to be done with the Conservatives to gut the ambiguous Liberal middle both left and right.

Thoughts about the by-elections

Repeating my bit from Macleans.ca, just for the record:

“Earthquake in Quebec.

“Stephane Dion fails his first electoral test as Liberal leader as the Grits lose a safe Quebec seat.

“Stephen Harper becomes the buffer against separatism in Quebec, a role traditionally attributed to the Liberals. Where dominoes fall in Quebec, vote-rich Ontario takes notice.

“The NDP picks up only their second seat in Quebec history. Does this represent a realignment on federalism in Quebec along the lines of left and right as we saw in the Quebec provincial election?”

Further to that point, Jack Layton’s leadership is secure for at least another two years. The man from Montreal promised to deliver seats in Quebec. He delivered one, but he’s got momentum. This Mulcair fellow may however be the MP that replaces Layton as leader.

From most accounts, Stephane Dion is a nice guy. From the couple of times we’ve crossed paths and from what I’ve been able to observe, the man is a class act. However, if what is being reported in Outremont is true and there’s a movement afoot to undermine his leadership, it’s time to either bring down the hammer Chretien/Martin-style, fade away or, or… something. Unfortunately for him, with party unity still a real issue, and no easy option presents itself. Before the ballots were even counted, the truth came out last night: in the Quebec by-elections, this nice guy finished “last”.

This certainly plays well for Stephen Harper and he is ahead on two majority elements today: Dion’s failing leadership and the redefinition of federalism in Quebec. While Quebeckers are rejecting Mr. Dion’s strong centralizing vision of the federation (even though he denied this characterization of Liberal federalism last night), nationals from la belle province are embracing Mr. Harper’s respect for regional identity and power. Further indication of this can be seen in the falling Bloc numbers. As I stated above, we may see a reconfiguration of Quebec politics along left and right rather than federalist/separatist as in the past. Progressive-minded Quebeckers that voted for the left-wing Bloc are realizing a real option in Jack Layton’s NDP, while the rest are electing to choose Conservative government MPs and a new respect for Quebec’s place in a united Canada. The end-game of this in the rest of Canada is of course to cut the ballot left and right, between the policy-principled NDP and Conservative parties, wedging the Liberals out.

Trudeau and Kennedy to be blocked by Dion?

I’m hearing that Justin Trudeau may face an interesting challenge partially originating from the Liberal leader Dion if the son of the late Liberal PM seeks nomination in Jean Lapierre’s riding of Outremont. Apparently, at least eight people have expressed interest in the nomination and among the eight is Brigette Legault (VP on Liberal Party Executive). Rumour is that Stephane Dion may end up trumping the young Trudeau’s bid by enforcing a policy ensuring that the Liberal party slates 33% female candidates for the next federal election. Outremont may be selected by Dion as a riding to be contested by a female candidate.

Legault is said to be actively campaigning, emailing Outremont Liberals for their support. As a member of the national executive, she brings significant Liberal support to the nomination race and may try and use Dion’s promise to leverage a win over Trudeau.

Speculation is also swirling around the riding of Parkdale High Park where Gerard Kennedy is reported to be interested in running. Again, a female executive member of the Liberal Party is eying that riding and may also receive Dion’s go ahead for that nomination. Elaine Flis is the VP for communications for the Liberal Party of Canada and is looking to secure the nomination from Kennedy.

Will Dion stick to his word by securing 1/3 of the candidate positions for women even if this comes at the expense of Trudeau and Kennedy? Or will Dion break his word and make these high profile female candidates select other ridings to contest?

UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out the awkward nature of the last paragraph. It’s a false dichotomy. So let’s simply frame it this way: Will Dion stick to his word by securing 1/3 of the candidate positions for women even if this comes at the expense of Trudeau and Kennedy?