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Tories deny links to construction firm renovating Parliament

The north tower of West Block sits under white tarps as renovations takes place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 4, 2010.

DAVE CHAN/dave chan The Globe and Mail

The Harper government is quickly moving to distance itself from controversy over an RCMP investigation into a $9-million contract to renovate one of the historic buildings on Parliament Hill.

Insiders said the construction firm that won the 2008 contract to renovate the West Block building, LM Sauvé, and the company's business relations adviser, Gilles Varin, have no links to the current Conservative government.

In addition, the government said it will let the RCMP look into potential breaches of the Lobbying Act and the Accountability Act, which were key priorities when the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

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"We brought these laws and if anybody has broken them they will face the full force of the law," said Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's director of communications.

Conservative officials said Mr. Varin, who acknowledged this week he helped LM Sauvé during the bidding process, has not held a party card for more than 10 years. Mr. Varin said his involvement in the contract was limited and did not meet the necessary threshold to register any lobbying activity with the federal government.

RCMP Corporal Caroline Letang said the force's Montreal office is handling the investigation into the contract. "The RCMP acknowledges that it has received a referral of this matter," she said.

According to information obtained by The Globe and Mail and Radio-Canada, LM Sauvé paid $140,000 to Mr. Varin between 2007 and 2009. The payments stopped when LM Sauvé filed for bankruptcy protection and lost its contract on Parliament Hill.

Conservative staffer Hubert Pichet, who works in the office of senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, rejected any link to the controversy in a statement on Tuesday night.

Mr. Pichet said he met with Mr. Varin and Mr. Sauvé at a restaurant in Montreal during the tendering process in 2007, qualifying the meeting as short and impromptu.

He added that Mr. Varin simply asked him whether he knew which officials in the office of the Public Works minister of the day might be of help on the file.

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"I have no direct or indirect link to the so-called awarding of this contract," Mr. Pichet said in a statement on Tuesday night.

Mr. Pichet has yet to respond to a request for a comment on the fact the president of LM Sauvé, Paul Sauvé, gave $1,000 to Mr. Pichet's campaing in the 2008 election, in which he ran for the Conservative Party.

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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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