A player in the sponsorship scandal is dead; Will Ottawa pursue his succession?
The federal government could target the estate of Luc Lemay to try to recover the sums lost in the 1990s and 2000s, says lawyer Simon Tremblay.
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Luc Lemay, former president of Groupe Polygone, testifies before the Gomery Commission on Tuesday, April 12, 2005 in Montreal.< p class="e-p">During his lifetime, businessman Luc Lemay did not reimburse a single penny of the tens of millions received from the sponsorship program, even after admitting to the embezzlement of large sums for the benefit of the Liberal Party of Canada.
His passing earlier this year, however, will no doubt impact the 2005 lawsuit launched against him and his companies by Ottawa. The government is still trying to recover a share of the 40 million they were awarded in contract between 1997 and 2003.
According to lawyers consulted by Radio-Canada, the government could simply drop this lawsuit. But he could just as well maintain his lawsuit, but this time against the estate of Luc Lemay.
Luc Lemay during the Gomery commission in 2005
The government confirms that it is reviewing its strategy following the death, while citing the confidentiality of discussions with its lawyers.
We are in the process of assessing the impact on the procedures following the death of Mr. Lemay, which we learned recently, says Michèle LaRose, spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada.
According to his obituary, Luc Lemay is dead cancer last April.
According to a former prosecutor on the Charbonneau commission on the construction industry, Ottawa may have some advantage in prosecuting the estate of Luc Lemay.
[The death] does not cause any particular difficulty, says Simon Tremblay in an interview with Radio-Canada. On the contrary, it brings up realities for the applicant that may be of some interest. There is an inventory of the estate that will be made, and obviously [Luc Lemay] will no longer be there to testify at his trial about what he has done or what he has not done. not done or what he should have done.
Judge France Charbonneau in company of Simon Tremblay, at the time Deputy Chief Prosecutor of the Charbonneau Commission
To date, the federal government has recovered more than $6 million from other players in the sponsorship scandal, such as advertisers Jean Brault and Jean Lafleur.
Simon Tremblay claims that the federal government must take this into consideration.
“If other people who cheated the government in the sponsorship scandal had to pay to repay some of the money they cheated, I think it would be fair and desirable that it is the same treatment for everyone, regardless of their status, whether they are deceased or not. »
— Simon Tremblay, lawyer
Simon Tremblay teaches civil procedure at the Barreau du Québec. Over the past seven years, he has led several lawsuits against contractors on behalf of the City of Laval, which have recovered over $50 million.
From 1997 to 2003, Luc Lemay's companies received nearly $40 million from the Sponsorship Program, a federal initiative aimed at increasing Canada's visibility in Quebec following the 1995 sovereignty referendum.
Among his businesses that benefited from federal sponsorships, there were numerous hunting and fishing fairs organized throughout Quebec, as well as publications such as the People's Almanach.
According to what Luc Lemay himself said during a criminal trial in 2016, he embezzled large sums from his sponsorships for the benefit of the Liberal Party of Canada and Liberal organizers like the late Jacques Corriveau.
Former Liberal Party of Canada organizer Jacques Corriveau at the Montreal courthouse on October 25, 2016.
In his testimony at the latter's trial, Luc Lemay claimed to have handed over a total of $165,000 to buy the silence of another Liberal organizer who was caught in an influence peddling affair in the late 1990.
The purpose of these sums was to ensure that the organizer in question, Pierre Corbeil, agreed to plead guilty to the charges against him, thereby avoiding a trial which could have embarrassed the Liberal government of the time.
Luc Lemay also testified that other sums remitted to Jacques Corriveau had been used to pay $350,000 in election expenses for the Liberal Party of Canada as well as current expenses of the Party in Quebec, including supplies desk pads and golf balls.
Luc Lemay then explained that he had obtained the funds from the sponsorship program thanks to the canvassing work of Jacques Corriveau, which explains why he had offered him nearly $7 million in commissions.
Luc Lemay testified in 2016 under an agreement that gave him immunity from criminal prosecution.
The federal civil case against Luc Lemay was complicated by the fact that certain details of confidential discussions about a settlement with the government were leaked to two newspapers, the Globe and Mail and La Presse< /em>. At the time, according to the Globe and Mail, Luc Lemay's team was discussing a settlement of around $5 million.
In addition, the case was the subject of a case that is went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Indeed, Luc Lemay's team unsuccessfully attempted to uncover the identity of a Globe and Mail source – nicknamed Ma Owl – in an attempt to end the statute of limitations lawsuit. .
Lawyer Louis P. Bélanger, who has already acted with Luc Lemay in several cases, says that to his knowledge the case has not changed since the Supreme Court judgment in the Ma Chouette case in 2010.
The firm that represents Luc Lemay, Stikeman Elliott, said it would have liked to comment on the matter, but cannot do so for confidential reasons.
In their defense filed in court in 2007, Luc Lemay and his companies claimed that the amount of sponsorships received had been set by the federal government, and that the visibility promised in exchange for these sums was indeed delivered.
The Government of Canada pleads the “disproportion” between the “price paid” or the “amount paid” and the “minimum” visibility that it would have received, then responds the team of Luc Lemay in the federal prosecution. The value of a sponsorship is what the sponsor is willing to give it and the general partner accepts.
Launched after the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, the sponsorship program aimed to increase the visibility of the Government of Canada in Quebec by placing federal advertising at various cultural and sporting events.
However, as demonstrated by the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, chaired by the late John Gomery in 2004 and 2005, companies close to the Liberal Party of Canada pocketed millions of dollars in contracts, often for little or no work.
Former Justice John Gomery, serving on the Commission of Inquiry into the sponsorship program and advertising activities.
Significant sums were subsequently transferred to the benefit of Liberal organizers or the Quebec wing of the PLC, according to the report of the Gomery commission.
For example, the Gomery commission heard that Liberal organizers had distributed more than $100,000 in cash to Liberal candidates in eastern Quebec in the 1997 federal election. The money had initially been provided by Jacques Corriveau, who had received commissions from the companies of Luc Lemay, but also from several other companies involved in the comms program. andites.