OTTAWA—Controversy continues to stalk embattled Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis after reports emerged that his former department was implicated in a scandal involving possible influence peddling.
The scandal came front and centre during question period on Wednesday when opposition MPs went as far as to allege Paradis was under investigation by the RCMP, an assertion impossible to confirm based on the RCMP’s long-standing policy not to comment on whether someone is under investigation.
The scandal relates to a Globe and Mail and Radio-Canada investigation into kickbacks to an unregistered lobbyist for securing a $9-million renovation contract on Parliament Hill.
The contract was awarded to now-bankrupt LM Sauvé with the help of long-time Conservative supporter and organizer Gilles Varin. Varin received $140,000 from the construction firm for securing the contract to restore the historic West Block building of Parliament Hill, according to documents obtained by the news agencies.
Varin is not registered as a lobbyist and it is alleged he used his backroom connections to secure the deal. Varin told Radio-Canada all he did was pass along Sauvé’s resume to a friend.
While the RCMP acknowledges their Montreal detachment is investigating, they will not comment beyond that.
Paradis was not the minister of public works when the department awarded LM Sauvé the contract, but he did attend a fundraiser put on by former president Paul Sauvé in January 2009 after being made minister.
Paradis did not deny his attendance when asked during question period, saying it was a routine fundraiser and no ministerial business was discussed.
Under Paradis, the department later removed LM Sauvé from the project for missing multiple deadlines.
Political pundits noted on Wednesday that whether Paradis is under investigation is a moot point given recent scandals that have cropped up in his vicinity.
Paradis was already under fire after it came to light his former aide at his current post as Minister of Natural Resources, Sebastien Togneri, had repeatedly interfered with access to information requests, a crime punishable by up to two years in jail or a maximum $10,000 fine.
Some experts believe Togneri could be the first person ever charged under the law.
While Togneri resigned, the government has faced challenges to its policy of ministerial responsibility under which ministers claim responsibility for the work of staffers and answer calls to testify before committees in place of political staffers.
Paradis is the second Conservative minister to face multiple scandals back to back.
In April, former minister for the status of women Helena Guergis was ejected from caucus after a series of scandals that climaxed when her husband was accused of illegal lobbying and Guergis was implicated in the affair. She was cleared of wrongdoing by the RCMP in July.