February, 2007, Pomerleau Construction of Quebec was awarded the contract to build the 236 bed long-term care facility in Corner Brook. It came in with a low bid of $48 million. A competing Newfoundland firm, Olympic Construction, questioned how the contract was rewarded. Olympic's President said he believed the companies were given different specifications, and he suspected Pomerleau may have been able to alter its bid to become the lowest. Then Transportation and Works Minister John Hickey said the same tender package was used by all bidders, and there was nothing untoward about the project being awarded to Pomerleau. Then Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender, and Board of Trade President Mark Baldwin agreed. The project started running into trouble almost immediately when Pomerleau brought in 4 carpenters from Quebec, and the local trades union protested.
Then in September, 2007 Danny Williams called an election for October 6, 2007. This is where the topic of this blog starts. Williams accepted a political donation to his campaign of $5,000.00 from Pomerleau Construction. Pomerleau did not donate to any other candidate in the election. Pomerleau did not donate to any candidate in the previous elections, or as an annual contributor to any person/party in Newfoundland and Labrador. Pomerleau never donated again in Newfoundland and Labrador politics except $750 to the PC Party in 2008. So what do you call a one-time substantial political donation made to a sitting premier whose government just gave you a $48 million contract? Most would instantly see it as a reward. I would say it falls in that category.
Does that make it illegal? Here's what those links above have to say about that:
CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT (NL):
Accepting extra benefits
7. (1) A public office holder shall not, directly or indirectly, accept a fee, gift or personal benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that is connected, directly or indirectly, with the performance of his or her duties.
CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA:
"121 (1) Every one commits an offence who:
(i) gives, offers or agrees to give or offer to an official or to any member of his family, or to any one for the benefit of an official, or
(ii) being an official, demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept from any person for himself or another person, a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for cooperation, assistance, exercise of influence or an act or omission in connection with
(iii) the transaction of business with or any matter of business relating to the government, or
b) having dealings of any kind with the government, pays a commission or reward to or confers an advantage or benefit of any kind on an employee or official of the government with which he deals, or to any member of his family, or to any one for the benefit of the employee or official, with respect to those dealings, unless he has the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government with which he deals, the proof of which lies on him;
c) being an official or employee of the government, demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept from a person who has dealings with the government a commission, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind directly or indirectly, by himself or through a member of his family or through any one for his benefit, unless he has the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government that employs him or of which he is an official, the proof of which lies on him;
CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA (AMENDED)
119. (1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years who
- (a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, directly or indirectly, corruptly accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves or another person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by them in their official capacity, or
- (b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives or offers to a person mentioned in paragraph (a), or to anyone for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity.
The law seems very clear. It is illegal to accept money from a company that is doing business with your government. Yet Williams did, but he was not prosecuted. Pomerleau did as well, but they were not prosecuted.
Then on March 14, 2013, Richard Dion, formerly of Pomerleau Construction, admitted Pomerleau had been involved in illegal donations to political parties in Quebec. On the same day Yves Codette, VP of SNC Lavalin admitted organizing schemes to funnel thousands of dollars in donations to Quebec provincial parties. The full story is here: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/03/14/snc-lavalin-donated-more-than-1-million-to-quebec-political-parties-commission-told/
Genivar, a Quebec-based subsidiary of Pomerleau, admitted to the corruption commission that it too had been involved in illegal political donations to get municipal contracts: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=354a8e51-079e-4995-b31a-c7950eb975b5 As did SNC Lavalin. The truely ironic twist is that Pomerleau is the construction arm of the SNC consortium put together to build the Montreal hospital where a $22 million dollar bribe was paid through an offshore company by SNC Lavalin: http://www.vigile.net/SNC-Lavalin-construira-le-nouveau and http://www.vigile.net/SNC-Lavalin-construira-le-nouveau
Pomerleau has since become very active in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2009 Pomerleau was the lowest and successful bidder on the new Corner Brook City Hall - $19,798,278. At the time then councillor Neville Greeley was alone in opposing the bid: "The lack of public consultation that has gone into this and the process that has been followed to date; the fact that we are at just about $20 million, with cost overruns...we're pretty soon up to a $24 million city hall - for those reasons I speak against the motion." When the doors opened on the new city hall the final cost was $22 million. The province put in $15 million and the City paid the remaining $7 million.
Pomerleau was the lowest and successful bidder on: the Corner Brook Long Term Care Centre - original price $48.4 million, final price $68.5 million; Corner Brook Water Treatment Plant $36 million; Lab West Hospital $60 million; New Residence Building Grenfell Campus $17,750,000; Demolish and removal of St. Teresa's School $14,810,000; and St. John's Convention Centre expansion $55,000,000. Pomerleau is an approved bidder on the Lower Churchill Project, and is bidding. In addition, Pomerleau just acquired Nielson Inc. which is heavily experienced with hydro dams, including as a partner with H.J. O'Connell. In fact, H.J. O'Connell with Neilson Inc. and the Innu Nation were awarded the excavation work for Muskrat Falls. You will remember from my last post that many H.J. O'Connell executives donated to Peter Penashue's campaign in 2011. A practise which is under extreme scrutiny at the Quebec Corruption Commission hearings.
What seems to be clear from all of this is patterns. Patterns that exist in the Quebec construction industry and are certainly happening here, and now. The knowledge that our former Premier accepted what can only be seen as a reward, in the form of a political donation, for his re-election from Pomerleau is disturbing. Disturbing that in my opinion it clearly breaks the law. Disturbing in that as a wealthy man he didn't need it, yet accepted funds from a company that was clearly rewarding him personally. Did Pomerleau break the law? It appears that they did. Have they broken the law in other jurisdictions regarding donations? Yes, by their own admission they have. Do we have reason to consider that a great many of our current government funded projects may be subject to these type of activities or worse? Absolutely we do. To think differently would be to ignore the facts, and the evidence unearthed in the Quebec Corruption Commission, that point to exactly how these large corporations influence politicians for their own profit - at our expense. Do the RCMP need to investigate this? Yes it is their duty to, and we need them to.
To be clear, yesterday I requested comment on these facts from former premier Danny Williams through his lawyer, and Pomerleau Construction. I also requested the donation lists for the last three municipal elections from the City of St. John's and the City of Corner Brook. I have had no response from any of these enquiries.