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Liberals refuse further reimbursements to taxpayers after ex-organizer’s trial

Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau arrives to hear closing arguments in his trial on Oct. 25, 2016, in Montreal.


The Liberal Party of Canada is refusing to reimburse taxpayers for any previously unknown contributions from individuals involved in the scandal-plagued sponsorship program, despite the conviction this week of a former organizer on three charges for his role in a kickback scheme.

The Liberals reimbursed more than $1-million to taxpayers after the end of the Gomery inquiry in 2005, but the trial of Jacques Corriveau featured new revelations of federal funds that were secretly redirected for partisan use by Liberal officials.

For example, the trial heard for the first time that $165,000 was paid to convince a Liberal bag man, Pierre Corbeil, to plead guilty to four charges of influence peddling in 1998 and avoid incriminating any other Liberal officials in an illegal fundraising scheme.

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In addition, the trial heard how Mr. Corriveau convinced a large recipient of sponsorship funds, Montreal businessman Luc Lemay, to pick up a number of invoices on behalf of the Liberal Party, such as election expenses and office supplies.

While the trial did not provide a final accounting of all illicit contributions, the testimony from Mr. Lemay and related documentary evidence suggest the total came in at around $900,000.

By contrast, when the Liberals decided to reimburse taxpayers after the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship program in 2005, they only identified $319,312 in funds that Mr. Corriveau or his firm had transferred secretly to the party.

After a jury found Mr. Corriveau guilty of three charges on Tuesday, Liberal spokesman Braeden Caley said the party would not provide further reimbursements in relation to the activities of Mr. Corriveau.

"As you may recall, the Liberal Party of Canada acted over a decade ago to reimburse $1,142,818.27 to the Receiver General of Canada in accordance with the findings of Justice Gomery's comprehensive public inquiry in 2004-2005, including with regard to Mr. Corriveau," Mr. Caley said.

Conservative MP Jacques Gourde said the Liberal Party faces an obligation to go over the information that came out at Mr. Corriveau's trial to determine the exact amount that should be reimbursed to taxpayers.

"If the Liberal Party received money in a dishonest manner, they need to pay it back," Mr. Gourde said in an interview. "Ill got, ill spent."

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The sponsorship program was a national unity initiative that gave contracts to advertising companies and other businesses to place Government of Canada logos at sporting and cultural events in Quebec after the 1995 referendum on sovereignty. However, the program was marred by widespread fraud and kickbacks to government and party officials.

While Mr. Lemay had testified at the Gomery inquiry in 2005, he went into much greater detail at the recent trial about hidden political contributions that he made toward the Liberal "cause" at the request of Mr. Corriveau.

Mr. Lemay provided the RCMP with hand-written documents from Mr. Corriveau that detailed $489,000 in cash payments that went mostly to Liberal organizers in Quebec in the late 1990s.

In addition, one of those documents showed a series of payments totalling $349,500 to a number of companies and individuals that provided goods and services to the Liberal Party of Canada, including a number of invoices for photography and printing services for election material.

Mr. Lemay's firms went on to pay for a poll ($5,700) and more than $10,000 in office supplies that were shipped directly to Liberal headquarters in Montreal.

Mr. Lemay said the goal of the payments to Mr. Corbeil was to ensure that he did not implicate other Liberal officials in an illegal fundraising scheme. The money was provided in cash and in a fake printing contract with Mr. Corbeil's firm.

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"Mr. Corriveau told me: 'It's essential for this guy to plead guilty. If he does not plead guilty, it will greatly affect the Liberal Party,'" Mr. Lemay testified.

Mr. Corriveau was found guilty by a jury on charges of influence peddling, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime.

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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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