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Quebec’s elections watchdog tallies toll of political donation scheme

Parti Quebecois supporters cheer as election results are announced in Montreal, Tuesday, September 4, 2012.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Quebec's chief electoral officer has tallied up the toll of a political donation scheme revealed by Quebec's corruption inquiry: Employees from several hundred companies reliant on government business filled the coffers of provincial and municipal political parties with millions in questionable donations.

The elections watchdog found $12.8-million was donated by the employees of 532 companies in four sectors – mainly construction and engineering, but also law and accounting – between 2006 and 2011, with nearly two-thirds of the money going to the Quebec Liberal Party, which was in power at the time.

Chief Electoral Officer Jacques Drouin said the practice of bunched donations from company employees appear to comply with the letter of the law, which bans corporate donations. But, as the Charbonneau commission has shown, the employee-donors are often "straw men" who are reimbursed by the company for the donation.

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Mr. Drouin called the results "a groundbreaking portrait" that will enable investigations and charges under elections laws. The report "is a major step forward paving the way for more effective interventions in the area of prevention, detection, and punishment of illegal financing," he said in a statement.

The report found the Liberals received $7.3-million in so-called "sectoral financing," while the Parti Québécois collected $2-million. The Action démocratique du Québec and several Montreal and Laval municipal parties accounted for the rest.

The bulk of the companies that employ the donors were in the construction (301) and engineering (205) sectors. Eight accounting firms and 18 law offices also had several employees lined up for political donations.

Mr. Drouin found that the practice dried up after 2009, when longstanding allegations of corruption finally started to be examined by a newly established anti-corruption police squad. The company-linked donations dropped 40 per cent in 2009, 75 per cent in 2010 and 84 per cent in 2011.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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