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CANADA

Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates


NUMBER 034 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
40th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (0845)  

[English]

    Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

[Translation]

    Good morning to all members, witnesses and guests. I want to welcome you. This is the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. Here's the agenda.
    Welcome, Mr. Varin and Mr. Rousseau.

[English]

    Mr. Varin is accompanied by his counsel. I will remind counsel and all that counsel is restricted to an advisory role and may not answer questions on behalf of the witness.

[Translation]

    Mr. Regan, go ahead, please.

[English]

    Could the witness be sworn in, please?
    It's not the usual practice, but there's no reason why not. Is that right? It's entirely at the committee's discretion. If the committee wishes to have the witness sworn in, we can have the witness sworn in.
     Seeing no objection, I'll ask the clerk to attend to the swearing in of the witness, please.

[Translation]

    I would like to raise a point of order after the witness is sworn in, Mr. Chairman.
    You really want to do it after the swearing in?
    I'm going to wait until after the swearing in, but I want to do it before Mr. Varin's evidence.

[English]

    Okay.

[Translation]

    I, Gilles Varin, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
    Thank you, Mr. Varin.
    Mr. Lemay, you have a point of order?
    Yes, Mr. Chairman.
    I understand that Mr. Varin may have to consult his lawyer, but I would like that consultation time to be deducted from the question period or from the time allotted to us to ask our questions to ensure we have the time to ask those questions.

[English]

    I'll try to accommodate that as best I can. Thank you.
    Monsieur Varin, you have up to 10 minutes to make your initial presentation, and thereafter members will ask questions.
    Thank you.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Thank you for welcoming me here today. It's a pleasure for me to accept this invitation in order to correct certain statements that have been reported in the newspapers.
    First of all, I would like to make an initial correction. Reference has been made to $140,000 or $150,000, but that figure is incorrect. The exact amount that was paid to me over a period of 30 to 34 months was $118,000. I received fees from Mr. Sauvé. He himself determined the amount of my fees, an amount that I accepted. That was done over a period of 30 months. However, I was consulted on many more files than the one we are concerned with.
    I would also like to submit a document, an article that appeared in the October 27 issue of Le Devoir. I obviously didn't know it had to be translated into English. The clerk will therefore have it translated before it is submitted to you. I would like to introduce it. The third last paragraph states what was apparently said by Mr. Sauvé, who gave the interview:
The most recent contract was the one for $8.9 million to renovate the Canadian Parliament's West Block, a contract that was “obtained by call to tender and without any political involvement,” he added. This is obviously a very promising new client since the entire restoration program for the Parliament buildings in Ottawa is estimated at $1 billion.
    I would like to submit this document for it to be distributed to committee members. I believe this article will confirm what I have to say today.
    I'm ready to answer your questions.

  (0850)  

[English]

    Thank you, Mr. Varin.
    It is the usual practice, of course, to submit in both official languages. This is in French only.
    Can we waive that?
    A voice: Yes.
    The Chair: We can waive it, but only on the consent of the committee.
    And consent is given? Okay. Therefore, I'll ask the clerk to distribute the article.
    We'll go to Mr. Regan for the next eight minutes, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[Translation]

    Mr. Varin, thank you for being here today. I did an Internet search on your company, Varin Communications, with little result. You apparently don't have much of an Internet presence. How do you go about finding your clients?
    It's by word of mouth. I've been in the same occupation for about 40 years. Incidentally, I forgot to mention, even though I wanted to emphasize this, that I am not a lobbyist. I'm a strategic communications and business development consultant. I've been doing this kind of work for about 40 years.
    Over those 40 years, I have probably had a few hundred clients. I haven't been able to count them exactly. I have always worked for fees with all my clients. For some clients, I received fees plus a commission, but I have always received fees from all my clients.
    Apart from Mr. Alain Sauvé, what other clients have you had in recent years?
    I've had a lot of clients in recent years, I've obviously had some in the private sector. Mr. Chairman, I don't know whether I'm being ordered to name them, but I haven't requested permission from those clients to name them today.
    Could you do that and prepare a list?
    I can do that. Do you want to know all those from last year?
    That would be those from the last three years.
    Did you say those from the last three years?
    Yes, that's correct.
    Yes, all right.
    Do you have any previous criminal convictions?
    In 1976 or 1977, I was sentenced to pay a fine, but I did not receive a criminal record.
    For what activities were you convicted?
    That was about 30 years ago. I don't remember exactly what was involved. It's been 33 years.
    Mr. Varin, it is hard to believe that someone who has received a criminal conviction doesn't remember it, that it's not a highlight in his life.

  (0855)  

    I don't really remember the case, sir. I really don't remember. It was, at any event, a case that had nothing to do with the government. It was Quebec's occupational training commissions at that time, where I had been a director general from 1969 to 1972 or something like that.
    So you remember it?
    Pardon me?
    You remember it very well, don't you? You remember the situation and the details.
    I remember that it was at that time, but I don't exactly remember what it concerned.
    That's fine. Do you have any similar convictions?
    Pardon me?
    Do you have any similar convictions?
    No, never.
    Thank you.
    From where do you know Mr. Sauvé?
    Mr. Sauvé called me up one day to meet with me. He told me he had done so on a recommendation by a member of his board of directors. I don't know which of the members it was. It was a board of a number of individuals. I had been recommended to Mr. Sauvé in that context.
    For what purpose did he retain your services? What did he hope to accomplish?
    I advised Mr. Sauvé on a number of files from the moment I was there. When I started working with Mr. Sauvé, we were far from thinking about the contract the Canadian government is concerned about right now, that is to say the contract to renovate the Parliament buildings. We didn't even talk about it when I arrived. I advised him and I introduced him to a large number of people in the business world. My client had just filed for bankruptcy at that time. He needed to rebuild a public image, which I helped to do.
    How did you do that?
    He continued to pay me. So he must have been satisfied.
    What duties did you perform for him?
    I provided Mr. Sauvé with strategic advice on what he should do and on the kind of advertising he could use. I distributed a lot of his brochures throughout the business world, in the private sector, virtually everywhere where business could be done. I introduced him to general contractors because he acted as a subcontractor more often than not.
    Now let's talk about PWGSC and the federal government. To whom did you forward his curriculum vitae, and with what instructions?
    I don't remember submitting CVs. I may have distributed a brochure, but I didn't do so to a senior official, or to a minister, or to a minister's political attaché or any other person.
    Mr. Varin, you told Daniel Leblanc, or at least he wrote that you said you had forwarded Mr. Sauvé's curriculum vitae to the government.
    Look, I may have given Mr. Sauvé's CV or a brochure to Mr. Pichet. We met him entirely by chance at a restaurant. I introduced him to Mr. Sauvé. So it's possible I gave that to him at that time, but I don't remember submitting it to him more particularly.
    You said it was Mr. Pichet. Where do you know him from?
    I've known Mr. Pichet for about 23 years. He even worked on certain files with me at his law firm.
    Did Mr. Pichet receive anything from you other than to enable him to do his job?
    No, not at all, but I still meet him regularly. We often eat at the same restaurant, and sometimes I simply go there to say hello. I've no doubt previously discussed politics with him.
    When did you obtain results for Mr. Sauvé?
    What was going on with Mr. Sauvé?
    What were the results?
    I introduced him to Mr. Sauvé. Mr. Pichet sat down with us for a few minutes and matters stopped there. I introduced four or five individuals to Mr. Sauvé that lunchtime.
    Thank you, Mr. Regan.
    Ms. Bourgeois or Mr. Lemay, you have eight minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Good morning Mr. Varin and Mr. Rousseau.
    Mr. Varin, you say you introduced Mr. Sauvé to a lot of people and advised him. Do you know Mr. Paul Therrien?

  (0900)  

    Yes, I know him.
    How long have you known him?
    For a number of years, in fact since the 1980s, probably.
    When was your last meeting with Mr. Therrien?
    I don't know. I haven't seen Mr. Therrien in perhaps three years.
    Three years ago, he was still Michael Fortier's chief of staff, wasn't he?
    No, Mr. Therrien has never worked for Mr. Fortier.
    Do you know Mr. Fred Doucet?
    I know him. I've previously met him, but I haven't seen Mr. Doucet in 12 or 15 years.
    Mr. Sauvé managed to appear on the short list of contractors likely to obtain the contract. Do you think he might have changed the criteria and thus been put on that short list without your intervention?
    In fact, I don't think anyone can intervene to put someone's name on a short list at the federal, provincial or municipal level. Officials handle those files.
    However, I advised Mr. Sauvé. His name was not put on the list of government suppliers. I advised him and told him that he should first be registered on the list of government suppliers and that he should introduce his company. Otherwise, he would not have been put on any list.
    So you continued to work with Mr. Sauvé from the moment his name was put on the short list.
    Yes.
    In what form did you receive the $118,000 amount you referred to earlier? Did you receive it in individual amounts?
    I was paid every month. This was done in amounts of $5,000 to $10,000 a month.
    Was that in cash or by cheque?
    It was by cheque, including GST and QST.
    The $118,000 was paid over 30 months in amounts of $1,000 a month.
    It was $5,000 to $10,000 a month.
    Do you have proof of those payments? Could you submit them to the committee?
    Yes, I don't have them in my hand, but I could very well provide the list to you and submit it to the clerk.
    That's good.
    You say you advised Mr. Sauvé and told him what he had to do.
    Did you advise him to organize a cocktail fundraiser?
    No.
    Did someone contact you to send him the message?
    No.
    That wasn't the case.
    No.
    Who do you think advised him to do the cocktail fundraiser?
    It was the president of the Bourassa riding association.
    All right, it was the president.
    It was Mr. Gilles Prud'Homme.
    You know him, don't you?
    I met him then. I didn't know him at all before that.
    All right.
    I didn't know the candidate who was there either.
    Did you do any other work for other businesses with PWGSC or other federal departments?
    No.
    You never did any other such work during your 40-year career?
    Do you know Minister Paradis very well?
    I don't know him intimately. I know him because I met him a few times at cocktail parties.
    When did you last see Mr. Paradis?
    If my memory serves me, it was at the party organized in Mr. Mulroney's honour in Montreal.
    In what year was that?
    That was two years ago, perhaps.
    It was in 2009.
    Does the name of Senator David Angus mean anything to you?
    Yes.
    Do you know him well?
    Yes, I've known him for a long time.
    Did you attend a cocktail fundraiser for the constituency of Laurier—Ste-Marie with Mr. Angus in 2007?

  (0905)  

    It's quite possible.
    Were you aware of the fact that Paul Sauvé's company was under the control of the Hells Angels?
    No.
    You didn't know that.
    Mr. Sauvé explained that to me much later. At the time, it wasn't under the Hells Angels' control.
    The 2009 fundraiser was held at the Da Enrico Restaurant, which is owned by Riccardo Padulo and his son Enrico. Do you know those individuals well?
    No.
    You don't know them at all?
    No, I didn't know the son. I didn't know him at all. I probably met the father a very long time ago.
    I'll ask you another question. Is it possible that you knew who the other bidders for the government buildings were, apart from Mr. Sauvé, and that you got wind of the amounts of the bids?
    No. And I've never seen that in my career. When people bid, they don't usually give competitors their figures.
    And yet you have a friend who works at PWGSC, an official whom you know well. That's what you said.
    No.
    And yet you said in an interview that your work was to forward Paul Sauvé's CV to a PWGSC official.
    I was misquoted or interpreted. I know no officials at PWGSC.
    Who is the friend to whom you gave Paul Sauvé's CV and who submitted it to an official?
    I don't know whether it was given to a PWGSC official. It's possible—I mentioned this earlier—that I gave the document, the presentation booklet, to Mr. Pichet. I don't remember whether I gave it to him, but that's possible. I gave it to no one else.
    If I understand correctly, you're saying that the only person who could have given the presentation booklet to officials was Mr. Pichet.
    When Mr. Sauvé had his name put on the list of government suppliers, he forwarded all his documentation. His presentation was very good. He then submitted all his documentation to PWGSC. The officials no doubt received the CV at that time.
    Your time is up.
    Thank you, Mr. Varin.
    It's a pleasure.
    Mr. Gourde, go ahead, please.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    Thanks to the witnesses for being here.
    Mr. Varin, have you been a member of the Conservative Party since 2004?
    I was a member of the Conservative Party, but I haven't been a card-carrying member for a number of years now. However, I have monitored the party's activities on numerous occasions.
    That means that you were a member of the Progressive-Conservative Party in the 1980s and 1990s.
    I don't remember the last time I had a card. That's negligent on my part. However, if I had been informed that I had to renew my membership card, I would probably have done so, but I never received any correspondence on the matter.
    Have you previously held a membership card of the Liberal Party?
    No, I have never had a membership card of the Liberal Party.
    According to Elections Canada, you have made donations to the Liberal Party. It was $198 in 1999 and $433 in 2003, and you gave $400 to the Conservative Party in 2007.
    I obviously helped the Liberal Party MPs that I knew well. I remember very clearly going to a cocktail party for Mr. Coderre. I remember very clearly Mr. Denis Paradis, among others. I attended Mr. Chrétien's golf tournament twice, I believe. I went because it was for friends.
    You know, outside politics—you are MPs, you know this—you make friends who don't necessarily have the same allegiance as you, who don't necessarily share the same opinion and you discuss that. You understand; that's life.
    I understand. Based on your vast experience, after 40 years in the business, you have friends from all parties, and that's good. You are a strategic consultant, and you must talk to virtually everyone.
    It's reported in the media that you were a Conservative organizer. Can you clarify that? Have you previously received money from the Conservative Party for work?

  (0910)  

    No, I've never received a cent from the Conservative Party. I've given it some money, but I've never received a cent from it. I organized things a few years ago, in the constituencies, at conferences, but I've organized nothing for the party in recent years.
    So you've never had a Conservative Party business card stating that you were a party organizer. You've always done it as a volunteer just as any Canadian would.
    Yes, I've always been a volunteer.
    Did you have good relations with Denis Coderre at the time you gave that party money?
    I've always had very good relations with Mr. Coderre. He comes from the same place I do and I've known him for many years. I like him very much.
    Did Mr. Coderre help you at times? Did he give you advice?
    No, I never worked with Mr. Coderre, but we often spoke. Obviously, Mr. Coderre has his opinions and I have mine. We can nevertheless have fun discussing various topics.
    Your extensive experience of more than 40 years has led you to spend time with a number of politicians. Has working with politicians from all parties been a pleasant experience? Or are you bitter instead because you have come before a parliamentary committee to rehash the past?
    The media sometimes say things, but you may have to speak out to make your story known. What has been your personal experience with what has happened in recent months?
    As you'll understand, what has happened is not among the most pleasant things that can occur. It's especially difficult for the family is such a case. I believe I can accept responsibility for what I do and what I've done. As I have nothing to apologize for in this matter, I'm trying to correct the facts.
    Some opposition parties have wanted to put words in your mouth. Is there anything you want to clarify? Or is everything fine as it is?
    Pardon me, I didn't quite understand.
    Some opposition parties have insinuated that you engaged in political interference. Is that true?
    No, I've never engaged in political interference with any party in power whatever.
    That's enough for me. Thank you.

[English]

    You have two and a half minutes.
    I appreciate your testimony this morning and we appreciate getting to the bottom of many of the different allegations that are out there in the media and being brought forward by our opposition colleagues. Today it seems like we're on a fishing expedition. I usually don't mind fishing expeditions, except if nobody is catching any fish, and today that seems to be what is happening.
    Mr. Varin, is the translation working for you?
    I think we're still without translation for the witness, and my French isn't good, so I do apologize.
    A voice: C'est correct.
    Mr. Chris Warkentin: Très bien. We should thank the translators. Without them, we would be nowhere in this place. We do appreciate their work.
    Mr. Varin, I wonder if you were aware of the Federal Accountability Act. When we were elected, our government was concerned, as most Canadians were, with the lack of accountability--at least perceived lack of accountability--in Ottawa. You, coming from Quebec, know the issues well. Obviously, the sponsorship scandal left a taint on this entire institution of Parliament.
     So our government brought forward the Federal Accountability Act, an act that would ensure that people who were trying to buy influence on Parliament Hill would be identified and that there would be limits as to how they might be able to buy influence.
     Are you aware of the Federal Accountability Act, Mr. Varin?

  (0915)  

[Translation]

    I'm familiar with that act. The reason I'm not on the list of lobbyists is that that's not what I do. I've never intervened with the government on this matter. If I had had to intervene, I would have registered.

[English]

    Well, we appreciate that because that's counter to what many of the media have reported. You have been reported and identified as a lobbyist and so that's an important correction.
    Mr. Varin, you're also aware that it's a contravention of the Federal Accountability Act to give a donation with the expectation of receiving anything in return. Did you ever give a donation to any political party with the anticipation that you would get something in return?

[Translation]

    No, I made donations to the party on a voluntary basis. I very often attended cocktail parties. Those who were in a position to observe know that I have an extremely busy life with associations; I've chaired a lot of boards, I've done volunteer work all my life. When I worked for the party, it was volunteer work.
    Thank you, Mr. Warkentin.

[English]

    Mr. Martin, eight minutes, please.
    Mr. Varin, let me start just by clearing up the question by Mr. Regan of what you were convicted for in 1977. Our information is that you were convicted of five counts of fraud, corruption, and breach of trust. Would that be accurate, sir? You don't remember...?

[Translation]

    I don't exactly remember the charges that were laid. You say so; so you must have the file.

[English]

    Well, specifically, sir, when you were the chair of the apprenticeship division or whatever it was, you were shaking down a trading school for personal gain and therefore abusing your position of trust. That's what you were convicted for, in my understanding. Unless you have information to the contrary, that's what we understand.
    That's not the point today, though. I'd like to know more about when you met Mr. Pichet and how long your relationship with Mr. Pichet goes back. Were you friends with Mr. Pichet when he was the executive assistant to Brian Mulroney?

[Translation]

    Yes, I was already a friend of Mr. Pichet's at the time. I had known him for some time before the 1984 election. That is why I said it was probably in 1980s.
    I've known him for a very long time. Mr. Pichet has been a political organizer for a long time.

[English]

    That circle of people would include, then, Fred Doucet, Frank Moores, Karlheinz Schreiber, etc. That would be the people in that group at that time. Would that be correct?

[Translation]

    No, no.

[English]

    Frank Moores, Fred Doucet...?

[Translation]

    I probably met Frank Moores once or twice at cocktail parties, but I didn't know him at all. I knew Fred Doucet by name, and I've previously said hello to him, but I don't know him beyond that.

[English]

    Did you have dealings with their consulting firm, GCI consultants?

[Translation]

    No, never.

[English]

    I see.
    Can you remember the date that you met Mr. Pichet in the restaurant with Mr. Sauvé, where you introduced him and gave him the leaflet? Can you remember the date of that lunch meeting?

[Translation]

    Absolutely not, because, as you know, I had lunch with Mr. Sauvé on a number of occasions. I don't know the dates. I didn't keep an agenda concerning that. It often happened at the last minute. He called me and asked me if I was free for lunch. If I was free, it worked.

  (0920)  

[English]

    The reason I'm asking, sir, is that on January 26, 2009, Mr. Sauvé made a donation of $1,100 to the Bourassa riding association and $1,000 to Tory candidate Hubert Pichet, the candidate for La Pointe-de-L'Île. I'm wondering if there's any connection to you running into him in the restaurant, giving him Mr. Sauvé's leaflet and information, and then Mr. Sauvé feeling obligated to make a $1,000 donation to Mr. Pichet.

[Translation]

    That's absolutely not the case.

[English]

    There's no connection--

[Translation]

    I believe Mr. Sauvé also made donations to political parties.

[English]

    I wonder why that specific riding. He doesn't live in that riding. He just thought Mr. Pichet should get $1,000. And then Mr. Pichet, presumably, knows somebody in Public Works, because they very conveniently rigged the bid for this contract by changing fundamental parts of this contract three days before the tender closed. Otherwise Sauvé would never, never have gotten on that bidders list. He simply wouldn't have. He was out of his league. But if he pays $118,000 to you, you find a way.
    I mean, why would a guy give you that kind of money unless he had an expectation of you fixing his problem getting onto this job? You'd have to be stupid to give somebody $5,000 a month so you can hand around leaflets to strangers on the street. I'm not an idiot, and I don't think Mr. Sauvé is an idiot.

[Translation]

    You'll have to ask Mr. Sauvé those questions when he appears before you. I can't answer for Mr. Sauvé.

[English]

    We will. We will. To give somebody $5,000 or $10,000 a month as a businessman is a Hail Mary pass. He must have thought you could do something magic for him to fix his business--something like this sorcery associated with this contract, I presume.

[Translation]

    I worked for Mr. Sauvé for a long time before he got that contract. At that time, we didn't even talk about the possibility of getting a contract related to the government buildings. He had a lot of other contracts. After his bankruptcy, Mr. Sauvé started over from scratch. If I correctly read the article you have before you, his turnover had reached nearly $25 million.

[English]

    Sir, let's go back to the lunch meeting. Did Mr. Pichet actually join you at the table with Mr. Sauvé or did you join him at his table? In other words, how long was this meeting, this exchange?

[Translation]

    I asked Mr. Pichet, who was seated elsewhere, to come by and say hello to me. I called him. I told him to come because I had someone to introduce to him. I introduced Mr. Sauvé to him.
    He may have sat with us for 5 or 10 minutes. I don't know. I don't remember. I have sat down with Mr. Pichet so often and for such a long time.

[English]

    You didn't just hand them the leaflet, then; you talked about something for five or ten minutes.
    What is Mr. Pichet's day job? What does he do when he's not a Conservative candidate?

[Translation]

    Are you asking me what Mr. Pichet does?

[English]

    Yes. What is his day job?

[Translation]

    I know he teaches at university. I'm not sure whether it's the Université du Québec or the Université de Sherbrooke. He also works with Senator Pierre Claude Nolin.

[English]

     Oh, I see. He works with Senator Nolin. I see.
    Did you meet with Michael Fortier when he was Minister of Public Works--ever?

[Translation]

    I met him once; I went to play in his golf tournament. I may have met him in other circumstances, but I don't really remember. However, I remember playing in his golf tournament.

[English]

    You seem very well connected, sir. When they call you “a well-connected Conservative lobbyist”, I believe that's an accurate description of you, even though the Conservatives have tried to disown you in the House of Commons. They say, “He's no friend of ours”. Up until today they were denying you were ever even a member of the party. I think I heard the Prime Minister himself say that “we don't know this Varin character”. Now it seems like you spend a lot of time hobnobbing with very senior Conservatives on a regular basis.

  (0925)  

    Mr. Martin, I'm sorry, but your time is finished.
    Thank you, Mr. Varin.
     Thank you, Mr. Martin.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Good morning, Mr. Varin.
    Mr. Varin, I would like to go back to certain aspects that you mentioned a little earlier. First I would like to talk about your conviction for corruption. You said that conviction occurred around 1976, but that you have no criminal record. However, you say you don't really remember it.
    Mr. Varin, I find it very hard to believe that because that conviction was related to the work of the Cliche Commission. The Cliche Commission, if I remember correctly, lasted a long time and got an enormous amount of publicity in Montreal and across Quebec. I don't know whether it did across Canada, but that was definitely the case across Quebec. I find it very hard to understand how, despite the media coverage at the time, you can't remember why you were convicted around 1976.
    Do you want to comment on that?
    I don't really remember the circumstances. However, I know that I never received any money whatever for services that I might have rendered to them.
    Pardon me, Mr. Varin, that's not the question I'm asking you. You told us that you did not remember why you were convicted in 1976. I'm saying that's quite odd because, in 1976, there was an enormous amount of media coverage. To be convicted and not to remember why is surprising. It seems to me that, emotionally at least, that's something very important. That's my question.
    It happened more than 35 years ago.
    All right, I'll go on to another question.
    Let's talk about the fees you received from Mr. Sauvé. You said you had received approximately $118,000. Is that correct?
    That's correct.
    That's correct. Are there any invoices that you submitted to Mr. Sauvé for which you have not received payment?
    Yes, I believe I have not received payment for some of the recent invoices.
    Can you give us an approximate amount?
    Quite honestly, I don't know that by heart. I would have to consult my accountant on that matter. I know some invoices weren't paid, and we subsequently had to deduct GST and QST again.
    That's fine.
    Mr. Varin, have you worked in Ottawa?
    No.
    However, you've had professional ties with people in Ottawa.
    What ties are you talking about?
    With government people, with officials in Ottawa?
    No, no.
    You have no professional ties with anyone who works in Ottawa?
    I have no professional ties. I know a lot of people who work in firms in Ottawa, and in all the firms since about 1980.
    Mr. Varin you tell us you are very familiar with the way the machinery of government works and you tell us you played the intermediary for Mr. Sauvé. I have in my hand a press file from the Journal Québec Presse. It dates back to January 2009 and it was sent to me by the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec. It's entitled “Press file Gilles Varin, business lobbyist”. And yet you said a few minutes ago that you are not a lobbyist.
    Could you explain that to us?
    I didn't write that file myself; a journalist did it. I clearly do business in the area of strategic consulting and business development with business people.
    Mr. Varin, do you known Mr. Bernard Côté?
    Yes.
    Could you explain to us how he was involved in the awarding of contracts or in the cocktail parties? Was he involved in the organization or invitations for the cocktail party in January 2009?
    No, he was not involved in that cocktail party.
    Was he involved in the awarding of the contracts in which you were involved?

  (0930)  

    He was not, absolutely not.
    Thank you, Ms. Folco.
    Mr. Lemay, you have five minutes.
    Good morning, Mr. Varin.
    You said you have known Paul Sauvé for about 30 years. Is that correct?
    No.
    How many years has it been?
    I met Mr. Sauvé in 2006 or 2007.
    So, 30 months later, you've received—
    It's more or less 30 months.
    He regularly sent you cheques, between $5,000 and $10,000 a month, for about 30 months, if I correctly understood.
    That's about it.
    Could you tell us the date on which you received the first amount of money? Do you remember that? Do you have to search in your documents?
    Wait a bit. The first time, I believe, was September 28, 2007.
    In September 2007, you received your first payment.
    On what date did you receive the last amount?
    That was in 2009, but I don't remember the date. My last invoice, if I remember correctly, dates back to the third month of 2009.
    Consequently, around March 2009, you sent Mr. Sauvé your last invoice.
    He subsequently informed me that my services were no longer being retained, in accordance with what was agreed upon in the basic contract that we had entered into.
    When did you learn that Mr. Sauvé's business was under the control of the Hells Angels? How did you learn that?
    When I started working for Mr. Sauvé, his business wasn't under the control of the Hells Angels; I'm convinced of that. Had it previously been under the Hells Angels' control? I know nothing about that.
    In your mind, Mr. Varin, that business was not under the control of the Hells Angels between 2007 and 2009.
    I'm convinced of that.
    In your mind, that's it.
    In my mind, that's it.
    Do you know Senator Nolin well?
    Yes, I've known him for 40 years.
    I imagine you know that Mr. Pichet works for Mr. Nolin on a regular basis.
    Yes.
    You say you've known Mr. Nolin for 40 years. Do you meet with him on a regular basis?
    I meet with Mr. Nolin regularly. We very often eat at the same restaurant. I've always had an excellent relationship with Senator Nolin.
    We won't do any advertising for a restaurant in Montreal, but are we to understand that you regularly have your base at a certain restaurant and that that is where you meet with your people for business lunches?
    That's very true. Moreover, Mr. Lapierre has very often talked about that.
    I imagine you know Mr. Lapierre well too.
    I know him well too.
    Varcan Communications is your marketing firm.
    That's correct.
    Are you still the president and officer responsible for that marketing firm?
    I still am.
    How many employees do you have?
    I work alone.
    You work alone.
    Do you have frequent meetings with people who, quite obviously, work in Ottawa but are often in the Montreal area? It seems you have your headquarters in the Montreal metropolitan area.
    That's correct.
    I often meet people who may work in Ottawa—
    And who may open some doors as well.
    Yes, but I have never discussed business at that restaurant with a minister or with a members of Parliament or with... Senator Nolin moreover knows my business well.
    However, to open doors, it's a good thing to be in contact with people you know well, who have lunch with you and who can open doors to potential clients that you have.
    That's obvious.
    You opened some doors for Mr. Sauvé. You helped him in his business. Is it the only contract in Ottawa that led you to work for Mr. Sauvé?
    No, no.
    Can you tell us the cases in which you've worked for Mr. Sauvé so that he could win contracts in Ottawa? What kind of contracts were they?
    As I explained to you earlier, in Mr. Sauvé's case, I explained to him that he had to—

  (0935)  

    Already, Mr. Chairman?
    May the gentleman complete his answer?
    The Chair: He may complete it.
    All right.
    Yes, I advised Mr. Sauvé on other contracts. I advised him on a contract with the City of Montreal, as to how to register and bid on that contract. I also advised him in other matters, in contracts that he did not win.
    Those were contracts in Ottawa.
    No, no, it wasn't in Ottawa. It was in the private sector, in Montreal.

[English]

    Merci, monsieur Lemay.
    Mr. Warkentin, you have five minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Varin, we're getting to the end of our time, but we want to make it absolutely clear that you in fact were not engaged in lobbying. Obviously there were reports in the media that you were engaged in lobbying.
     We have heard in this committee testimony from Mr. Tom Ring, who's an official with Public Works. He has testified, and when asked about you specifically, based on the media reports that had come out linking you somehow to this contract we're discussing as a committee today and that we've had a number of hearings regarding, he said:
...no: we've interviewed all of the people in the contracting and parliamentary precinct branches, and no one has ever heard of this individual and no one has ever been lobbied or influenced in any way.
    At a different time in the same hearing, he said:
There has not been any indication that anyone tried to influence the pre-qualification criteria or the process itself.
    So I bring that forward simply to, number one, counter Mr. Martin's accusations that there has been some funny business. The opposition contends that there is some type of funny business.
    Mr. Varin, I need to be absolutely sure: you were not a lobbyist and you weren't paid to lobby or influence this government contract. Can you state that on the record? And remember that you're under oath.

[Translation]

    I'm telling you categorically, I'm a strategic consultant in communications and business development, and that's what I did in these files.
    Now, I would just like to make a minor correction. I also read what the journalists wrote. I obviously apologize to the journalists who all, or virtually all, contacted me. I didn't return those calls out of respect for the committee. I wanted to testify before the committee first.
    However, contrary to what has been done, I won't make any comments to journalists after this meeting either.

[English]

    Well, you're a master of communications, so in an event where there is some misinformation that has been reported, what have you done to try to correct the misinformation that's out there? Have you considered legal action? Because in fact what has been alleged in some media reports is that you've engaged in an illegal activity, so I'm curious as to if you've considered legal action to correct that. The accusation is that you've engaged in illegal activity.

[Translation]

    Yes, I understand your question.
    I have assembled the entire press file from the very start. At that point, my lawyers will see whether there are grounds to institute proceedings and the ones we will institute, if we institute any. However, I haven't made a decision at this time.

[English]

    On another point, again on a point that has been in some contrast to what has been reported, we have sought to verify if you've been a member of the Conservative Party, as it has been reported. We have had extensive, extensive research done that has gone back to even before the creation of the Conservative Party, to the Progressive Conservative Party, to at least 2003. We can confirm that our records indicate that you have never been a member--since at least 2003--of the Conservative Party. Does that sound correct?

[Translation]

    That's possible. I don't remember the last time I had a membership card with the Conservative Party. I belong to no political party, either in Quebec or in Ottawa.

[English]

    Well, I appreciate that, because it has been reported differently, and I think our committee launched into many of these hearings based on media articles that came out: different news reports, either on television or in the newspapers, that have reported these different inconsistencies, at least, or untruths, I guess, as you've described them.
     So I guess it's important for our committee to determine where we're going to head from here, but clearly we're on a fishing expedition in a place where there are no fish.
    I think it's important that we give you an opportunity simply to clarify one last thing and that is with regard to your convictions in the 1970s. I understand that you've indicated that you don't remember what they were. I think if it were anybody around this table, we'd probably remember the circumstances that were related to them. I'm not sure they have any bearing on this hearing, but I think it's—

  (0940)  

    Mr. Warkentin, unfortunately you've left the witness with no time to respond to your question.
    I'm sure somebody else will follow up on it. Thank you.
    Mr. Regan, for five minutes, please.
    Mr. Varin, the Montreal Gazette says that in 1983 you were not a registered lobbyist, but you approached several cabinet ministers to help secure a bailout for the charter airline Nationair, and that the reason you weren't prosecuted was that the Mounties took action too late, that it had passed the statute of limitations, I guess.
     Is that accurate? Do you dispute that?

[Translation]

    With regard to the Nationair file—I vaguely remember that—that was about a strike during which Mr. Obadia consulted me at the outset on labour relations. I also remember speaking to I don't know whom, but to someone at Mr. Corbeil's office at the time so that he could meet Mr. Obadia and attempt to resolve the dispute because that company was headed toward bankruptcy, and that's ultimately what happened.
    So you spoke to someone at the office of a Conservative minister, but you say you aren't a lobbyist and that you didn't engage in lobbying—
    Mr. Gilles Varin: No, look—
    Hon. Geoff Regan: ...that you never engaged in lobbying.
    You've already told us today that you never engaged in lobbying, but here's proof of the contrary.
    At the time, I never considered that as lobbying, on the one hand. On the other hand, I was never sworn, and I never received a notice from the lobbying commissioner or anybody chastising me or criticizing me in that respect.
    Did you take part in organizing the cocktail fundraiser of January 2009—
    No.
    —that we've previously talked about? No.
    Who is Gilles Prud'Homme?
    Gilles Prud'Homme was or is... I didn't know him. I met him two or three times. He was president of the Bourassa Conservative Party association.
    So you're well aware who the various individuals are who occupy key positions in the Conservative Party in Quebec. That's obvious.
    Yes, and the same is true of the Liberal Party.
    But your first connection, your first link has always been with the Conservative Party.
    Not necessarily. I've always had good relations with all those who were there.
    Yes, but what's your allegiance?
    Oh, I understand. I'm a supporter... I'm a Progressive-Conservative.
    Thank you very much.
    In you opinion, why did Paul Sauvé organize that cocktail party you referred to?
    Why did he organize the cocktail party? I don't know. You'll have to ask him. I don't know.
    Did you attend that cocktail party?
    I attended that cocktail party. I remember that someone had bought a ticket and given it to me because he couldn't go. I knew virtually none of the people who were there.
    You didn't at all take part in its organization?
    No, no, not at all.
    You said you had no relationship with Bernard Côté. Is that true?
    I knew Bernard Côté well, but I didn't have any relations with him when he was in Mr. Fortier's office. I haven't seen him in a long time.
    Did you do business with him, before or after that?

  (0945)  

    I met him in order to try to do business with him before that, when he was in the real estate sector and I was vice-president... No, it was before that. At that time, I was director of development at the Permanent.

[English]

    Go ahead, Geoff.

[Translation]

    Do you go to the restaurant Le Mas des Oliviers?
    I go there regularly.
    Norman Spector said you had had lunch with Mr. Pichet at Le Mas des Oliviers. How did you know Mr. Pichet? In the past [Inaudible—Editor].
    Yes, yes, I met Hubert Pichet in the 1980s.
    What was Mr. Pichet's occupation at the time?
    Mr. Gilles Varin: Pardon me?
    Hon. Geoff Regan: What was Mr. Pichet's occupation at the time?
    That's a good question. He is a lawyer by training. I wonder what law firm he was working with at the time. I don't remember.
    Thank you, Mr. Regan.
    Thank you, Mr. Varin and Mr. Rousseau. On behalf of committee members, thank you for your presentation today.

[English]

    It will certainly help us in our deliberations.
    I'm going to suspend for a couple of minutes while we finish.
    Monsieur Varin.

[Translation]

    I too would like to thank you for having us here this morning. It was a pleasure to come and meet you.

[English]

     Thank you, Monsieur Varin.
    We're suspended.

    


    

  (0950)  

     I see a quorum, so we're going to resume this meeting.
    Welcome, Mr. Glouberman and Madam Gersovitz. You have up to 10 minutes for an opening statement, and thereafter members will ask you questions.
    I'll open the floor to whomever wishes to go first.
    We don't have an opening statement. We're here to answer your questions. It's as simple as that.
    Okay.
    Madame Folco.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

    My question is to either Mr. Glouberman or Madam Gersovitz. Do you know Mr. Gilles Prud'Homme?
    No, I do not.
    Ms. Raymonde Folco: Madam Gersovitz?
    You don't know him personally. Do you know of him?
    No.
    Not at all. Okay.
    Were you at this very famous cocktail that we've all been hearing about in January 2009? Were you present at that cocktail, Madam Gersovitz?
    I was present at the cocktail on January 19, yes.
    Okay.
    Mr. Glouberman?
    Yes, I was there as well.
    Yes. Thank you.
    Why did you go to the cocktail, if I can ask?
    Shall I answer that first?
    It doesn't matter.
    I think that there were a number of reasons, but whereas we're focused right now on the West Block, I have to say that if you understand a wider context of what was happening outside of the very specific nature of the project, there were a great deal of—through the fall, and then specifically in January of 2009—marches and newspaper articles about not supporting Israel in the papers. On January 10 there was a particularly unpleasant march in Montreal. It was attended by a very large quantity of organizations, some of them political. The march was characterized in the press as containing a lot of comments and denunciations, with such things as “Death to the Jews”.
    There was an article in the editorial section of one of the newspapers saying that those of us who remain silent become complicit in that sort of thing. I decided at that time to support the Conservative Party through a donation, in large measure because the Conservative Party seemed through the press to be the only ones that were very firm in their support of Israel and in their statements that Israel had the right to protect itself against the Hamas rocket attacks. I wanted to show my support to them by doing that.
    So that was about January 15 that the newspaper editorial came out, and on January 16 I decided that I would go to this fundraiser, that it would be an opportunity to give the money and support the Conservative Party. And so the next day, I wrote the cheque to the Conservative Party of Canada for the fundraiser amount--

  (0955)  

    I'm going to interrupt you because there's a very little time, but I understand your motives.
    Are you telling me that the reason you went to the cocktail and bought the tickets for the cocktail were for reasons completely outside the fact that you were going to be very closely involved in the reconstruction of the building on the Hill?
    I think, Madame Folco, that the question that I was going to be very much involved would be perhaps the crux of the perception. We have been working on the West Block project since the contract was first awarded in 1995. So whether or not in 2009 I then decided to give $500 from my personal account, it didn't strike me that there was a specific correlation between a relatively modest donation to a political party and the expectation, as you might be suggesting, of being about to work on a project. We were already working on that project, for quite a number of years.
    Mr. Glouberman, I'm going to ask you the same questions. When you decided to attend this cocktail, or at least buy a ticket, what were your motives?
    Well, prior to going, Julia and I discussed whether we should go or shouldn't go. The reason Julia expressed was something I shared, but I also saw it as an opportunity to meet with the minister and impress upon him the importance of the project and that the project remains a priority within the government.
    OKay. You were invited to come to this cocktail? Someone called you or wrote to you or whatever? Who is that person?
    We were invited. I am not exactly sure, but I suppose it was Paul Sauvé who called.
    And that's the same for you, Madam Gersovitz?
    Yes, although an invitation that comes with a request for money is not really an invitation, but yes, I think it was Mr. Sauvé who must have—
    A request, let's call it a request...Mr. Sauvé.
    I understand that there were very few people at this cocktail. It wasn't a cocktail for 500 or 600 people; it was a very few selected people who attended this cocktail. According to you, and I'm just asking for a general number, how many people attended this cocktail?
    I could not say to you at all—
    Fifty, a hundred, three hundred...?
    I must say to you that we knew nobody there, so it wasn't that we could recognize faces or anything. It's not a large restaurant, this restaurant it was held in on Saint-Zotique Street in Montreal. It seemed like a small restaurant that was quite dark. We came in and sat together at a table at the back and just waited to hear the speeches.
    Is this the first cocktail of any political party that you have attended? I ask the question to both of you: Madam Gersovitz, as well as Mr. Glouberman.
    Yes, for you?
    Yes. I've never been to one before.
    It's quite an experience, isn't it?
    Mr. Glouberman, do you want to answer that question?

  (1000)  

    I had been to several before.
    You've never been...?
    No. I've been to several fundraisers before.
    Oh, okay. Were some of these cocktails held by someone who is affiliated in some way with the Conservative Party?
    No. This is was the only cocktail or fundraiser that I went to for the Conservative Party.
    Okay. Thank you.
    When the contract was changed, was modified, were you aware that the modifications would be advantageous to LM Sauvé company?
    The Chair: Madame Folco--
    Mr. Norman Glouberman: The contract--
    Ms. Raymonde Folco: Is my time finished? Okay.
    I'm sorry. What contract are you speaking of, Madame Folco?
    I'm short of time.
    You have time to answer the question. I just wanted to indicate—
    This is the contract for LM Sauvé with Public Works Canada.
    Well, the contract was.... I believe you mean the pre-qualification documents that were changed at some point.
    Yes, that's right. Thank you.
    We did not participate. We were not requested to comment on that when it was done.
    Thank you, witnesses.
    Thank you, Madame Folco.
    Mr. Calandra has a point of order.
    Yes. In the testimony last week, I think Public Works was quite clear on the fact that the contract did not actually assist Sauvé; it actually hurt Sauvé.
     I know that she wasn't here at that particular meeting, so if she goes back and reviews the transcript, she'll see that her last question was actually incorrect.
    That is not a point of order, Mr. Calandra.
    Mr. Paul Calandra: Oh, sorry.
    The Chair: It has nothing to do with the rules of the House. It has nothing to do with the rules of the committee. It does not have anything to do with the usual procedures before this committee. It is rather to be interpreted as a point of interruption.

[Translation]

    Ms. Bourgeois, you have eight minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would simply like to tell you that I may be sharing my allotted time with my colleague Mr. Lemay.
    Madam, sir, I apologize for being late. I was detained elsewhere.
    First of all, you said you knew no one at that cocktail party. Is that correct?

[English]

    In response to Madame Folco asking how many people we saw there, I would say to you that Mr. Sauvé was there and we have met him before. Mr. Clavier was there. They were the only two people I absolutely recognized, who I knew. I knew no one else at that party.

[Translation]

    When did you meet Mr. Sauvé? How did you know him?

[English]

    Mr. Sauvé is a masonry contractor who works in Montreal. He has been the low bidder on at least one project that we worked on for the City of Montreal.

[Translation]

    So both of you had previously worked with Mr. Sauvé.
    Is that the case for you, Mr. Glouberman?

[English]

    I have never worked with Mr. Sauvé before this and did not know Mr. Sauvé before this.

[Translation]

    Mr. Glouberman, who invited you to that cocktail party?

[English]

    Mr. Sauvé.

[Translation]

    How did he get your name? If you didn't know him, why did he invite you?

[English]

    No, no. I believe you're misunderstanding what I said. I said I did not know Mr. Sauvé before he got the contract. At this point he already had the contract, so I had met him as part of this contract.

[Translation]

    So Mr. Sauvé gets the contract. You're subcontractors for Mr. Sauvé or—

[English]

    No, no--

[Translation]

    Please be more precise.

[English]

    We are the architects for the West Block.
    Ms. Diane Bourgeois: Oh, okay.
    Mr. Norman Glouberman: We got the job. We got the contract in 1995. We have been working on the job since 1995 up until the present. We are not subcontractors.

[Translation]

    You didn't have any contact with Mr. Sauvé before he got the contract.

[English]

    That's correct.

[Translation]

    Mr. Sauvé told journalists that Mr. Varin had told him that contributing to or organizing a cocktail party after obtaining a government contract was the thing to do. Do you share that view?

[English]

    No.
    We have no idea.

[Translation]

    Had anyone suggested the same thing to you?

[English]

    Never. No.

  (1005)  

[Translation]

    If I understand correctly, Mr. Glouberman, you have federal government contracts, don't you?

[English]

    We have--
    Ms. Diane Bourgeois: Oui?
    Mr. Norman Glouberman: Never.

[Translation]

    Have you done business with a lobbyist or another person who might have put pressure on PWGSC to obtain a contract? I'm putting the same question to Ms. Gersovitz or Mr. Glouberman.

[English]

    Absolutely not.

[Translation]

    Never.
    Never, you either.
    Do you know Minister Paradis?

[English]

    Not until I went to the cocktail party. He walked around the room and he shook everybody's hands, so I met him at that time.

[Translation]

    What about you, Mr. Glouberman?
    It's the same for me.
    Were you close to Mr. Fortier?

[English]

    I've never met Mr. Fortier.
    I've never met Mr. Fortier.

[Translation]

    That's fine. I'll now hand over to my colleague.
    I'd like to know whether any pressure was put on you not to come and testify before this committee.

[English]

    No. There was no pressure at all to come or not to come.

[Translation]

    Last week, you were to come and testify and it appears that you asked to do it in camera, but we did not grant that request—

[English]

    Point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Yes, Mr. Warkentin.
     I don't know that the member opposite is aware, but most of our planning sessions for this committee have been done in camera, and therefore, I don't believe there is any public information in regard to our planning for this committee.
    I think that is a legitimate point of order.

[Translation]

    I'm going to withdraw my question, Mr. Chairman.
    You are professional architects. Do you currently have a lot of contracts with the federal government?

[English]

    The primary contract we have.... We are from two separate offices. I represent Le Groupe Arcop, and Julia is with Fournier, Gersovitz, Moss. We have one joint venture contract right now for the West Block.
     In our office, we have two very minor contracts with National Defence Canada, not with Public Works.

[Translation]

    For how many years have you had the West Block renovation contract?

[English]

    Since 1995.

[Translation]

    So since 1995.
    In fact, if I understand correctly, you, as architects, are responsible for the renovation of the entire West Block.
    That's correct.
    Do you have subcontracts? Do you make any recommendations in that respect for these renovations?
    I believe there has been a misunderstanding.
    The contractors' contracts aren't granted by the architects. That's the responsibility of PWGSC.
    Do you, as architects, make recommendations concerning those works and the subcontractors or contractors who will do that work under your direction?

[English]

    In this case, the recommendation we did for this project was that we recommended that there be a process of pre-qualification for this work, as we felt it required contractors who had specialized experience. So we recommended that there be a process of pre-qualification, which Public Works accepted, in this case for the north towers project. Public Works was responsible for the process of pre-qualification and pre-qualifying contractors. It was not our role to do that.

[Translation]

    You say you recommended that there be a pre-selection because this was special work.
    Why did you impose restrictions? Did someone ask you—or was that your decision—to impose restrictions and to be much more specific with regard to that contract?

[English]

    I'm not sure I understand your question.

[Translation]

    All right.
    You are the persons responsible. There's a contract for the North Tower. You're asking for subcontractors for a very specific job, if I've correctly understood.

  (1010)  

[English]

    May I answer that question in saying the following? The first pilot project done on the West Block, because the building is large and there are many lessons are to be learned from the masonry conservation, was the southeast tower restoration, which I believe you heard last week has just won a prize for the quality of the restoration work. That was the first project done on this building, and we proceeded with a pre-qualification for that first and foremost.
    When you are working with historic masonry that is load-bearing, like the West Block and like any of the buildings on Parliament Hill, it is common practice--and RPCD recognizes this--that you need masons who have expertise in masonry restoration as opposed to just masonry. Therefore, there was a pre-qualification for the southeast tower process, which was successfully done. They followed a similar—
    I'm sorry, Mr. McKay, am I being too long?
    Please finish your answer. I've given Mr. Lemay a bit of discretion because of the point of order.
    No, please finish your answer.
    So that process was repeated for the north towers. The north towers process was not the first time that pre-qualification was used. It was the second time.
    Thank you.
    Mr. Warkentin.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thanks to both of you for showing up this morning. We appreciate your testimony.
     Quite frankly, I'll say to each of you that I am honoured, and I think we are honoured as Canadians, to have you before us. If Canadians truly understood who we have before us today, they would recognize that we have two individuals here who have an international reputation as well as a reputation that precedes them in their work of rehabilitating buildings and their architectural expertise.
     To have you working here on Parliament Hill is really something of a feat for the federal government. Thank you so much for your dedication and your work to preserve what is a national historic site and, really, a symbol of our democracy. You really are the right people for this job, and we appreciate your work.
    I understand that you've been involved here on the Hill on the rehabilitation project since 1995. Is that correct?
    Yes, that's correct.
    We thank you for that.
    Today it seems to me that we have members who have asked that you to come to our committee today and who were of the understanding that they might hear something in terms of political motivations and the rest. It's clear to me that you have undertaken your work in the most professional manner, so I think it's important that we, at this committee, have an opportunity to talk to you about the project you're undertaking.
    We understand that you attended a political event, but that was for deeply personal reasons. We appreciate that. I think it's important for us, as a committee, to respect those reasons. Just because you work for the federal government in one capacity doesn't preclude you from being able to involve yourself in political activities.
     I think it's important that we now talk about the project at hand. There's been some discussion about the cost of the rehabilitation of the West Block. I think there's been a lot of confusion, with different numbers going out about the rehabilitation of the West Block. A number in excess of $700 million has been reported as being allocated for the restoration.
    The thing that I think Canadians don't understand, or that maybe the media has misrepresented, is that a good portion of that money is actually allocated for moving the people who are currently in West Block to other accommodations and for rehabilitating those other accommodations to have them well suited. Approximately $27 million, I believe, has been spent on the restoration and the rehabilitation of the projects being undertaken right now.
    There is the south tower, which you were involved in. Is that right? It was the southeast tower.
    Yes.
    Now, there were lessons learned from that, and I think it's important for us as committee members to fully understand the challenges that come into play when we're talking about historic masonry. Can you give us some of the lessons learned from that and tell us how they will assist us in the rehabilitation of the rest of the building?

  (1015)  

    Well, Mr. McKay, I think you're going to have to give me a time signal, because I can talk about this for hours.
    Mr. Warkentin's soliloquy was about three and a half minutes, so you have the balance of eight minutes.
    I see. I will be quite brief.
    On the issues with the southeast tower, one of the lessons learned was that we were able to do investigations. We were able to understand and to anticipate what we were going to find. In fact, that project came in under budget.
    We were satisfied that we had learned lessons that were if you do exploratory openings and do testing.... The analogy is that you have a home where you don't know what you're going to find when you open up the walls. If you can do preliminary investigations, then the lessons learned in that will inform the tender documents and will help to inform the contractors in their work, and the project will go more smoothly than it might if you did not do that preliminary investigation.
    Now, in talking to some of the people who have been working on the West Block rehabilitation, as well as on other projects on Parliament Hill, it seems to me that there are significant costs in doing the job wrong. This has been identified in some of the masonry work that has been done over the years to try to patch and different things, which actually exacerbates the problems.
    Ms. Julia Gersovitz: Oh, yes.
    Mr. Chris Warkentin: So your work is instrumental if we're going to preserve this. Can you speak to that a little bit?
    Well, all I can say is that you're quite right that since it was determined in the 1960s to keep the building, there has been a lot of work done that has sometimes not been state of the art, because the state of the art was not as advanced as it is today.
     One example of that would be using mortar that is too hard for the building stone that surrounds it and therefore causes breakage and spalling of the stone itself. So some of the costs for the southeast tower were for removing Portland cement mortar and replacing it with a mortar that is softer and more compatible with the stone.
    So you're right, but that's part of the evolution, I suppose, of science. I think none of the intentions before were malicious.
    Mr. Chris Warkentin: Absolutely.
    Ms. Julia Gersovitz: They were just not as scientifically based as they are today.
    Can you talk about the number of other projects in the entire country that would reflect the complexities of this one in terms of the metal work, the masonry, and all the different things that make this unique? Can you give our committee some scope to fully understand this?
    I think that's a difficult question. It's difficult to find another example. Here we're dealing with a building built in the 1860s, bearing masonry that's undergone a number of renovations. It has a lot of asbestos in it. With the present policy, we're trying to bring it up to seismic regulations, seismic requirements.
    The combination of all of this, together with the requirements for a parliamentary building, means it's very complex. The masonry is in extremely poor condition. We can't just put up standard scaffolding. For the north towers we've had to put up major structures in order to hold them up while we do the work.
    I think one must also acknowledge the post-9/11 landscape and the security concerns that come with that.
    Right.
    How would you describe the current state of the building? Do you feel it's necessary that we undertake this work now?
    We felt that many years ago. When we did our first building assessment back in 1995, we found certain problems. When we came back in 2003-04, we were quite surprised at the amount of deterioration that had happened since that time. The project was stopped in 1999 for a period of time, and we felt that during that time the deterioration was tremendous. And it's continuing. That's why we have the scaffolding, etc., around the building right now.
    I think any of you who have been walking on the Hill of course would also note the security measures to prevent stones from falling, whether it's the wrapping of parts of the towers or the security fence around the perimeter to prevent people from being too close to the building.
    Thank you, Mr. Warkentin.
    Mr. Martin, for eight minutes, please.
    Thank you, Chair.
    Thank you, witnesses, for coming. I wasn't quite clear, originally, on why you were invited to come, and I'm still not entirely clear, but I would like to ask you a question of a general nature.
    Have you ever felt threatened--in a commercial way or in a personal way, you or your family--in association with any project that you've ever been involved with in the building industry?

  (1020)  

    We have not been threatened with specifics for...for what you are looking at now.
    You know, that's a very general question, Mr. Martin. It puts into review our entire lives, as you've asked it.
    Well, obviously we're most interested in the current undertaking of the restoration of the Parliament buildings.
    Is there any aspect of your work associated with this building that gives you any unease, or has there been any indication that your ability to continue working may be threatened, or has your personal safety in any way ever been threatened, associated with the parliamentary Hill?
    This is a project we're very proud to be part of. We've been working on it for 15 years. I think we've developed a love of the building, and I don't think there's anything that's threatened us in terms of the building or continuing to work on the building.
    Fair enough.
    Perhaps I can ask you some questions about the process of the letters of interest that get sent out. I realize it's Public Works that obviously does the tendering and the hiring, etc., but I ask you this given your knowledge and background of the building industry.
    The pre-qualification process that you recommended and that was conducted by Public Works was amended at a late date. Some of us feel that the amendments may have been the opportunity or the mechanism, if there was any political interference, that may have given an advantage to one contractor over another.
    The one amendment specifically that I'd like to ask you about is amendment three. I don't expect you to know those by heart, but it's the one that deletes whole sections of the pre-qualification document--sections 3.5 to 3.10, effectively--and adds a sentence. It begins as follows:
If a contractor decides to pre-qualify both as a General Contractor and Subcontractor, they are permitted to list the same projects to pre-qualify both as a General Contractor and Subcontractor providing the projects meet the mandatory requirements.
Then this sentence was added:
In doing so, he doesn’t need to pre-qualify a second subtrade for which he has specialization in, waiving the corresponding requirement defined below in sections 5 to 10 of this section.
    Does that mean anything to you?
    We were not involved in that part of the process.
    But would you consider that a substantive amendment? As an example, the other two amendments were about things like changing one paragraph because it's more correct, in a French-English translation issue, while another one was cancelling the pre-job site visit for the pre-qualification. They're relatively minor.
     This one actually deletes about 50% of the whole invitation to tender, in that you do not have to have a decorative ironwork restoration subcontractor list and you don't have to have an element carver subcontractor. I would say that the general contractors who would have had to pre-qualify their subcontractors would be at a disadvantage, and the one contractor who had all those subcontractors in-house would have an advantage.
     That change was made in the final days leading up to the closing. Do you have any professional insights?
    We were not part of that process. We were not asked, and to be honest, I'm not aware of everything that was deleted at that time. I know now that there was a change and I knew after the pre-qualification was done that there was a change, but I don't know the details of the change, so I can't really comment.
    I do understand that. I come from a building background as well and I know that as the architect it wouldn't be that you're involved with it. The timing of it was suspect to us, in that they extended the closing by one week, and then on the original closing date they moved what we consider to be this massive amendment that really changed the game dramatically.
    On the other bidders, you probably worked with PCL, as I have, and EllisDon, as I have, and Fuller Construction, arguably the best contractors in North America. I don't know who the fourth was. Do you remember? There were five people pre-qualified.

  (1025)  

    I'm sure somebody has the....
    This is the most prestigious restoration project of its type in North America, and maybe in the world currently--
    We certainly think so.
    Yes, and it attracted arguably the best contractors in the world, with international reputations. The guy who we argue bought his way onto this pre-qualification list low-bidded it by $2 million on a $9-million project. If I were the project manager, I would take a low bid like that and throw it in the garbage. I would probably take the highest and the lowest and chuck them and pick one in the middle range that had a reasonable expectation of being able to complete the job. Nobody can leave $2 million on the table on a $9-million project.
    This was not our decision. I mean....
    No, I understand.
    Bobby Watt took over. Have you worked with Bobby Watt as a contractor in the past?
    Our firm has worked with Bobby Watt on the restoration of the front facade of Rideau Hall.
    Did you see his press conference last week?
    I read about it in the paper.
    He feels that he's being pushed off the job, squeezed off the job. The trustee in the bankruptcy that's managing the money is not forwarding money so he can pay wages to his people. He's being forced into bankruptcy because he can't meet his payments.
    Again, we would be merely speculating if we added anything to that conversation.
    I understand. Again, this is why I wonder--
    We're not party to that.
    This is why I do wonder why you're here, with all due respect. As interesting as this is, unless you have something concrete you think the committee needs to hear, I don't know....
    Mr. Chair, why do we have them here?
    Well, they were at the invitation of the committee, Mr. Martin.
    Regardless, your time is finished.
    Mr. Pat Martin: I have no further questions.
    The Chair: Mr. Regan.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I'll begin by echoing my colleague Mr. Warkentin's comments in thanking you for your work on the West Block. It's a building we all treasure. I know that it will be a long time, but we look forward to its completion.
    Given the masonry specialization required--and you've described that--why was LM Sauvé uniquely qualified for this job? Or was that company?
    Can you repeat the question? I'm not--
    You talked about the specialization required in terms of the type of masonry work being done on the West Block, on the towers, for instance. In view of that, was Mr. Sauvé's company uniquely qualified to do this work?
    I don't think he was uniquely qualified. We didn't do the pre-qualification or the review of the pre-qualification submissions. That was done entirely by Public Works.
    In your view, was his company qualified?
    It's difficult for me to answer because I didn't see his submission.
    Are you familiar with his past work and his business?
    I've never worked with him before.
    Okay. Thank you.
    Do you know Gilles Varin?
    No.
    Okay.
    Did you have any other relationship with Paul Sauvé?
    Not really.
    Thank you.
    Madam Gersovitz, in relation to the renovation and appearing at the committee today, do you have any discomfort about appearing today?
    No. I've quite relaxed into it.
    Okay. That's good. That's great to hear. Make yourself at home.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Geoff Regan: So you haven't felt threatened in any way in relation to your appearance here today or in relation to the work on the renovation?
    I think Mr. Martin asked a similar kind of question.
    Well, I know Mr. Glouberman answered that, but I didn't hear an answer from you.
    No. We feel that we are able to come and speak to you openly.
    Thank you.
    At the cocktail reception in Bourassa in 2009, did anyone address the crowd at that event? Was there a guest speaker, for example? Do you recall?

  (1030)  

    I believe there was.
    Would Minister Paradis have addressed the audience, for example?
    Looking back, it seems to me there were two speeches of welcome. In one, Mr. Paradis was focusing on the woman who was running in that riding, who was going to be the candidate. He was speaking words of encouragement and welcome to her. That's how I would put it.
    How would you describe Mr. Paradis' role at that event?
    As I say, it seemed to be as a senior member of the Conservative Party, to wave the flag for somebody who was running or who wanted to run in the riding. That was my remembrance of it. It was focused on this woman's accomplishments.
    Do you recall seeing Mr. Paradis in any conversations, aside from when he spoke to the audience?
    I wouldn't be able to answer to that. He walked around the room and shook everybody's hand.
    So you met him personally and spoke to him?
    Yes. I said hello to him.
    That was the extent of the conversation?
    Pretty well.
    Do either of you know Bernard Côté?
    No.
    Do you know anyone at Public Works?
     I suppose you must deal with Public Works--
    Do you mean the people we're dealing with on a daily basis who are our project managers?
    Of course you would, but beyond that, or in the minister's office, for example?
    I think what you mean is do we know people who are not--
    --directly involved in what you're working on. That's right.
    No.
    We're familiar with people who are involved at a technical level on the project.
    That's natural.
    That's fine, thank you.
    Do you have anything else, Ms. Folco?
     Actually, I do.
    Madam Gersovitz, when Mr. Martin asked that question and Mr. Glouberman answered, I did get the distinct impression that you were uncomfortable--
    What was the question?
    When Mr. Martin asked the question about threats and Mr. Glouberman answered, I did get the distinct impression that your answer...your body language was not quite what I had expected. Do you want to say anything about that?
    No.
    Not at all?
    Thank you.
    May I express sympathy to the witnesses? We, too, have been exposed to less than memorable speeches by Conservative cabinet ministers.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    The Chair: Monsieur Lemay and Ms. Bourgeois.
    Point of order, Mr. Chair--
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    Oh gosh, here we have it.
    Point of order, sir.
    I'm sure I've stirred this one up.
    Yes, Mr. Holder.
    With all respect, Mr. Chair, I know you'd want to withdraw that, because it's beneath the greatness of the role of chair to let that comment stand.
    Could I humbly ask you to withdraw that?
     You can humbly ask.
    Mr. Ed Holder: Would you, please?
    The Chair: You've asked.
    Monsieur Lemay or Madame Bourgeois.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Of course, I'm going to share my time with my colleague.
    Madam, sir, I specifically want to understand the situation. You had a specific job to do, which was to restore the government buildings. Based on your professional knowledge, your expertise, you were to find a contractor who had specific knowledge to do that job. It appears there were four, five or six bidders. If I understood correctly, only one of them could do the specific job you were requesting. Is that correct?

[English]

    I think that would be incorrect, Madame Bourgeois. It is not that one contractor can do the work; it is that there is a list of qualified contractors, a list of pre-qualified contractors, of which one will do the work because his price will be the lowest conforming bid.
     It's not that there is only one person who is capable. Anyone who is on the list is capable, has been judged capable by Public Works and RPCD. There is going to be only one person who will do that work, and according to the public tender process, it will be the lowest conforming bid.

  (1035)  

[Translation]

    So only one qualified because you had specified the nature of the work, no? The five bidders could do the same work.
    Mr. Glouberman?

[English]

    Exactly. There were five contractors who pre-qualified to do the work. There were a number of contractors pre-qualified to do the work and they were asked to provide prices and submit tenders.
    Five firms submitted tenders. The lowest bidder was LM Sauvé and he was judged by Travaux publiques and RPCD to be conforming and to be the low bid.

[Translation]

    So they opted for the least costly firm.
    You are professionals, and you have a very large number of years of experience in this field to your credit. I imagine you are somewhat aware of the amounts involved or of the total cost of the work to be done.
    Were you surprised to see that LM Sauvé had won the contract by submitting a bid approximately $2 million less than those of the other bidders? Did that surprise you?

[English]

    We were asked, after the bids were analyzed by Public Works and deemed to be conforming to the legal requirements, to review the bid in terms of the cost, etc. At that point, we prepared a list of our concerns on that bid in terms of....we felt in certain cases that he was over or under our estimates. This was sent on to Public Works for their review.
    Following that, there was a meeting with Paul Sauvé to go over these concerns. The reason for going over them was to make sure that he understood the extent of the work and the scope of the work. At that meeting, he said, if my memory.... I wasn't at the meeting, but I did read the minutes of the meeting. He said that the documents prepared by our firms, by our total team, were very clear, very concise, and he clearly understood the scope of the work, and he stood by his prices in each area.

[Translation]

    So it was then that you met Mr. Sauvé, or when you spoke with him for the first time.

[English]

    As I said, I was not at the meeting. Our project architect was at the meeting and some of our representatives were. I couldn't go to that meeting. I was not there.
    Thank you, Mr. Glouberman.
    Thank you, Madame Bourgeois.
    Mr. Holder, you have the final five minutes, please.
    Thank you very much Chair.
    From time to time I certainly appreciate the chair's balance and fairness both in his judgments and in his comments. I'm afraid today is not one of those times....
    I'd like to thank our guests today for attending and giving their frank and thoughtful testimony. My Cape Breton mom used to say, “After it's all said and done, there's a lot more said than done”. I sense that some of the dialogue around the table has reflected that today.
    I want to touch briefly--for the last time, to get this finally off the table--on the issue of this infamous cocktail party.
    Madam Gersovitz, you've said that you attended one time ever, and that was this one cocktail party.
    I'm not sure I'll ever attend another one, but I did attend that one.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    Understood.
    Mr. Glouberman, you indicated that you attended this one, but you've attended several before. I thought I heard you say they weren't necessarily for Conservative functions. Do you recall what they might have been for in the past?
    They were for the Liberal Party.
    The Liberal Party. That's interesting.
    Mr. Martin has a point of order.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, that's not an appropriate question. We don't grill people as to their political affiliations at this committee.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Pat Martin: It's a person's own business what political party they choose to donate to and support. It's too late now, but if there are any apologies in order today, I think Ed Holder should apologize to this witness for demanding to know what political party he's donating to.
    That is not a point of order, Mr. Martin. It's a point of debate.
    Mr. Holder, continue.
    Thank you very much.
    Thank you for your candour there.
    I'd like to get to the point that is perhaps the key point here, which is the issue of the renovations. Certainly we've all heard from media that the renovations are quite extensive and come at a very high price. I'd like to get your professional opinion, and if I might say, because of this high cost to renovate.... You've been involved in this building since 1995. I would think you know this building intimately.
    I think this committee would appreciate a sense of what you think the renovation requirements are. How extensive is this? Is it worth the price we're paying?

  (1040)  

    I definitely think it's worth the price that we have to pay for this. This building has deteriorated tremendously over a period of time. Also, it's a building that was initially built as a departmental building, and it's being updated to meet present requirements for parliamentarians, which are quite different. So there's modern technology and there's a lot of infrastructure that has to be included in this building now.
    But basically most of the money is going into restoring the existing building. The masonry is in terrible shape. There's a tremendous amount of asbestos all over the building. That's very costly and very difficult to remove. It's all the way within the walls, so it's a very, very costly building to repair, and in addition, we are adding more space by creating space in the courtyard and closing that in.
    So in your professional opinion, the expense is justified based on the condition of the building as you see it today.
    I feel the cost is justified based on the condition of the building and the scope of the work that we have to do.
    Thank you.
    Finally, if I might, I want to clarify one of the questions that was asked by a member opposite. They wondered why you are here today. I think having you here today as world-class architects, and the work you're doing on our precinct... Frankly, this is a national treasure. I think it speaks to the calibre of your work, but also to the needs that are required for the building.
    You may not know this, but we actually had Minister Paradis scheduled for today. But there were some members opposite who thought it was more critical to have you here. But I would say that you've added some dimension to our discussions, and I'd like to thank you both for attending.
    Thank you, sir.
    You have 45 seconds left.
    I just have one question, Mr. Chair. When I was asking for some information on the scope of the renovation, you stated that between 1995 and the early 2000s, I believe, you were no longer involved or the work had stopped during that time. Was any work that you're aware of undertaken on the preservation of the facade or anything else during that period of time?
    I know that during the time.... The project was stopped in 1998-99. We were called back in 2003 to do an analysis. In that interim time, Public Works was checking the building, scaling the building, and doing annual checks to monitor the deterioration.
     But no reconstruction during that period...?
    I don't know if any reconstruction was done at that time.
    Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Warkentin.
    Thank you to our witnesses, Mr. Glouberman and Madam Gersovitz.
    Colleagues, don't leave the table just yet. We have one piece of committee business left.
    I'll ask Ms. Gersovitz and Mr. Glouberman to leave, but thank you again for your testimony. I feel bad about the back-and-forth stuff. Anyway, thank you.
    Colleagues, we have a motion put forward by Mr. Regan. It's a receivable motion. It's a timely motion.
    Mr. Regan, do you wish to speak to your motion?
    I wish to move the motion, Mr. Chairman.
    Okay.
    The clerk has pointed out to me that the last sentence says “within five calendar days”, and that would mean an expiry deadline on a Saturday.
    Shall we say “seven”? I'll offer an amendment--
    Or “Monday” or something like that, or “five business days”.
    I'll say “five business days”.
    Five business days: okay.
    Mr. Chris Warkentin: Mr. Chair?
    The Chair: Yes.
    Mr. Chair, I do have some concerns with regard to this motion. I don't know if Geoff Regan is aware, but his colleague Navdeep Bains has brought forward a very, very similar motion, almost identical in its components, in the public accounts committee, I believe, so the information is being compiled for that. I understand from our folks that five days is an impossible timeframe for the scope of information that's being requested.
    So there are those two points: number one, we have a motion that's already being brought forward in the public accounts committee; and second, there is actually a problem in terms of being able to fulfill the request within the timeframe specified.

  (1045)  

    Are there any other comments on the motion?
    Geoff.
    Mr. Chairman, on the fact that they are already compiling it, that part of it should make it easy to provide this committee with what they're already providing for another committee. Surely they can attempt.... Let's have them fulfill such part as they can, for starters. But I think it is reasonable to proceed with the motion.
    Are there any other comments on the motion?
    Mr. Chairman, in terms of it, I don't know how much work this committee wants to replicate if in fact another committee is already doing that. I don't know if there is time that we want to give Mr. Regan to consider and consult with his own colleagues as to whether or not they intend to replicate the same work. It's important, I think, that committee members know that this is being asked for in the public accounts committee, and we would simply be replicating the efforts they're undertaking there.
    Mr. Chair, Mr. Warkentin is assuming that this committee will ask the same questions, for example, as would be asked at the other committee or pursue the same topics. Just because we have the same information, that isn't necessarily the case--
    Well, I think we can coordinate with our colleagues.
    --and I can assure you that we'll try to avoid that. But I think it is certainly reasonable, since we're looking into this matter also, that we ought to have the documentation.
    Is there any other commentary? Questions?
    The motion has been amended to say “five working days” instead of “five calendar days”. Those in favour? Those opposed?
    (Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: The motion carries. Thank you.
    The meeting is adjourned.
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