LM Sauvé Canadian Construction and Masonry Corporation is a family business that is 54 years old and has been practising the art of masonry across this great country. It was founded by my grandfather, Albert, and pursued by my father, Maurice. It has had many involvements in construction across Canada. A brief history would show that in 2004 we were awarded the restoration of the CSIS building in Montreal. We were cleared by security and all forces at Public Works to be awarded a $5.2 million contract.
Next is the St. James tower restoration project in Montreal, which was under way from 2001 to 2006. It is one of the most prestigious and historically relevant churches in Canada, and it was restored by our firm, with much involvement through public-private partnerships with the Quebec government and the City of Montreal.
The next slide shows the Hudson's Bay Company, Canada's largest retailer and second-largest in the world. We were awarded a $29 million campaign to restore all of their flagship stores and historical properties across Canada.
Our operations to this day--regardless of the difficulties that have been brought upon us from the loss of this great contract here, and the one for City Hall in Montreal--span across the country, with offices from Montreal to Victoria. Regardless of the difficulties we've suffered--just to dispel some of the queries that we had to file for bankruptcy and had disappeared from the map, which is not correct--we are in full operation. We would like to remind you of what we did last summer. I will show you some activities in Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver, and Victoria.
I would like to break the ice on the St. James church project and discuss the great injustice that rests upon my family's company to bear the complete costs of the $4.7 million cost overruns, normally shared by all parties involved, which include the Quebec government and the City of Montreal.
This picture is from 2004, at the grand opening of the project. You can see Jacques Chagnon, from the Ministry of Public Security, and a slew of ministers from the Quebec government, as well as the mayor of Montreal, Line Beauchamp, Jean-Marc Fournier, and a few others.
I would like to attract your attention to why we hired a lobbyist when it came time to do the tower project. In 1994, Reverend Arlen Bonnar was involved as a partner in the project of the restoration of St. James and did not share in the burden of the costs of $4.7 million. I am told he has lately received from the Quebec government close to $1 million, which has not been redisbursed to the coffers of my family's corporation.
As you can well imagine, a $4.7 million cost overrun during the St. James project led us to ask for some help from financial partners.
I would like to dispel the issues that surround myself and others in my family regarding the involvement of the FTQ, and more precisely their “partners”, the Hells Angels.
We asked for help after the complete failure and loss of $4.7 million from one of the most trusted sources of union pension fund moneys in the country, and we were invaded by this particular gentleman, who was recently arrested.
I'll then talk to you about the projet de l'hôtel de ville de Montréal. The mayor of Montreal believed, as I've been told, that the restoration of City Hall could be a project to get us working again. So we bid competitively, and other than the fact that we had to go through a great number of loopholes to win this bid, we qualified in a cross-country competition.
Once we were awarded this bid, we discovered that one of the companies that was involved--to do the roof--had been disqualified in the tender package but had to be reintegrated into the team. Well, this member, Three Stars Roofing, lo and behold, was partners or in cahoots with the Rizzuto clan, as you saw in the pictures in the press last week. So there is a direct link between organized crime, large union contractors, and politicians.
I state for the record today, having heard from members of this clan, that I believe three councilmen who are presently serving for the City of Montreal, as well as the mayor himself, to be part and parcel of this controversy.
I will switch to the Peace Tower project in 1994 and explain to you why we've hired a lobbyist, which I believe is one of the reasons I'm here today.
In 1994, as a much younger man, I came to the Hill with my father to bid for one of the first projects that was to take place, the great restoration of our great Peace Tower. Upon depositing our bid in April 1994 at 10:30 a.m. in Hull, at Place du Portage, we were told by the clerk that the bid had to come in about 10 days later because of Fuller Construction's golf tournament. About 10 days later, when the bid came in, Fuller Construction was awarded the results. Fuller was involved with Carleton steel. Bobby Watt was the subject of quite some controversy here, and Richard Moore, who serves for MHPM, which is a partner with Public Works in the campaign to restore all of the buildings here, was then the president of Fuller Construction.
You can just imagine that as a boy from Quebec, coming on the Hill.... We decided this time around, 15 years down the road, to hire some help, and here are the Conservative connections we were told to use: Le Mas des Oliviers, the Conservative headquarters in Quebec; François Pilote, best friend of our Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest; Senator Claude Nolin; Gilles Varin; and Hubert Pichet. We got the contract, obviously because we paid and because we qualified; we had the qualifications.
Here's what we found out when we got here. You have an organigram with many players: Public Works; MHPM; Richard Moore, then president of Fuller Contracting, now acting for MHPM inside the Public Works office, leaking our bid sheet to a competitor and buoying himself to try to get our market, trying to get our job; Arcop architects, no collaboration; Revay, same engineers. There was no way in hell that we could make it through this unscathed, regardless of all the other difficulties that I just explained to you a minute ago.
I'll give you some of the explanations for which Public Works seems to think we were not up to par. It took us eight weeks--two months--to get electricity to our latrines and our construction shacks when we got to the Hill; seven months of quibbling over our schedule; one month for having been given erroneous civil engineering plans for a tunnel that we dug out that didn't exist, but that was there; two months of delay because of misplaced files and no plans coming to remediate; obviously slow payment, greatly affecting our cashflow, which led to our most recent financial difficulties; and a slew of road closures that didn't help us in the matter.
Then came the mediator to try to help, hired by Public Works, best friend of Norm Glouberman, president of Arcop architecture, Mr. Howie Clavier, who visited city hall and made it very clear that the crown would invoke our bonding company, La Capitale, to come finish the job. Since there was cross-collateralization between both projects, obviously the city hall project would get hit and hurt by that same token. So a cyclical effect of having taken our project away here also led to our bonded project in Montreal being taken away, two of the greatest projects we had, other than the Hudson's Bay Corporation project, at that time under way.
Ladies and gentlemen, the real tragedy here is not hiring a lobbyist. The real tragedy is that this work, which has been overly complicated by a slew of folks who work for Public Works, either through consultants or direct offices...it led this work to cost about $6 billion, where it could have cost just under $1 billion.
We have the competency to prove this, and yet we've been led astray in being able to prove that point. We never had a chance.
I sit here today humbled by this whole affair, and I'm ready to answer your questions.
Mr. Sauvé, thank you for your frank testimony. It's very helpful to us that you've come here voluntarily to share this with us.
I also apologize to you, Mr. Dorval, that perhaps our committee didn't accommodate your personal loss. You have my condolences.
Mr. Sauvé, the picture you paint for us is actually our worst fears realized. You're painting a picture of influence peddling, corruption, kickbacks, and infiltration by the mob, not only into the industry generally, but also right under our noses here in West Block. Perhaps even more worrisome, if you can overlook all of those things, are the cost overruns. Our committee is primarily concerned with getting the best value for the tax dollars invested in the renovations of our historical treasure, these Parliament buildings.
I hope we do get time to deal with the last slides of your presentation, indicating that in your professional opinion everything on Parliament Hill costs ten times as much to build. I can tell you that was my observation when I first came to Ottawa as a journeyman carpenter, having spent a lifetime in the industry. It seems everything in Ottawa costs ten times what it costs to build in Winnipeg. We build whole hospitals in Winnipeg for $200 million, with operating rooms and 347 wiring and all of these difficult technical details, yet it was going to cost us $320 million to build a little committee building over here. It had to be cancelled because the costs exploded so much, and I'm starting to understand why.
But what concerns me most and what concerns our committee is that at the same time, at this very moment, Public Works is presumably letting out more contracts for this $6 billion project.
I say to you, Mr. Chairman, that we have a motion passed by this committee calling for a moratorium on all renovation work on the Parliament buildings. I'm going to ask you, as chair, to report, as you were directed to do, to Parliament that this committee recommends a complete moratorium on all of this work until we can be assured it's not being let out due to corruption and kickbacks and illegal lobbying and influence peddling.
I say this because we had this guy Varin here. We shouldn't have let him leave the room. We should have put him in handcuffs right then and there, because this guy sat there and lied his face off to us about what he did for you, Mr. Sauvé, whereas in actual fact, somebody in Public Works is getting paid off to rig these contracts by custom writing them so that your bid wins.
I wrote down a quote in which you said, “We got the contract...because we paid”. Is it your firm belief that because you paid Varin that money, you got this award?
Mr. Petit, I am a little disappointed to see you bring politics back into the debate in this forum. First of all, the dates would have to be checked as to when we were experiencing serious financial problems. The Quebec government and the City of Montreal both decided not to pay the cost overrun, which was a very heavy burden for our company. That was between 2004 and 2006. And that is the reason why we applied for assistance from the FTQ Fonds de solidarité and that people like Dupuis and Ouimet came into the picture.
If your question is intended to determine whether a political structure is being established in order to push me in a certain direction or get me to rail against a union, the answer is no.
I have had certain experiences. My family has been subject to unbelievable pressures. Despite all this turmoil, I am here today to answer your questions and those of your colleagues. It is clear to me—and this didn't just begin yesterday—that there are direct links in Quebec between the FTQ and the Hells Angels. If the FTQ has no desire to shed light on this, that is its problem, not mine.
I've seen it and experienced it. Following our application for assistance and the arrival of people like Ouimet, productivity on my work sites increased fivefold; it was like day and night. I saw my problems with the CSST disappear overnight, and Quebec Construction Commission officers no longer appeared to hold up our construction work. That was no coincidence.
In my opinion, it's part of a circle—a watertight circle. The people who are in that circle are engaged in collusionary practices and that has an extremely negative impact, not only on Quebec, but on the country as a whole. I can tell you that it has had an extremely negative impact on myself, personally, and on members of my family.