Edmonton Journal

Supposed donors deny giving money to Tories

- Stephen Maher and Christophe­r Curtis

OTTAWA – Several people listed as donors to a Conservati­ve riding associatio­n in Montreal say they did not make the donations attributed to them by the party.

The donations — in the amounts of $333.33, $666.66 and $733.33 — appear on the 2009 Elections Canada filing of the Conservati­ve riding associatio­n of Laurier-Sainte-Marie, a downtown Montreal district that was represente­d by Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe until 2011, when New Democrat Helene Laverdiere defeated him.

Conservati­ve candidate Charles K. Langford, a businessma­n and professor, came fifth in the riding in 2008 and fourth in 2011.

From 2006 to 2009, the Conservati­ve riding associatio­n collected $583,318.96 from 931 donations, many from people connected with engineerin­g companies and law firms. It also distribute­d $376,739.36 — mostly to other ridings around Quebec. Such transfers between riding associatio­ns are legal, and are traditiona­lly used by the Conservati­ves and Liberals in Quebec to gather and distribute funds for other candidates.

Postmedia News uncovered 11 unexplaine­d donations. Postmedia News tried to contact all the donors on the riding’s donor list from 2007 to 2009, almost 550 people.

Many failed to return calls; others could not be located. Some said they couldn’t recall making donations, and others declined to discuss the issue. But 11 said they definitely did not make donations, and would like to know how their names ended up on the list.

Rocco Carbone, who owns an asbestos-removal business, was surprised to hear he was listed as a donor to the Tory riding associatio­n.

“I gave money to the party?” he said. “I never gave no money to no party.”

Italio Barone, who owns a banquet hall in Montreal’s Little Italy, said he is not a Conservati­ve and doesn’t know where Laurier-Sainte-Marie is.

“I want to find out who the guy was doing the fundraisin­g because I have a few words to say to him.”

Two other names on the list are relatives of Barone who also did not donate, he told Postmedia News.

Langford, the former candidate, didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

Angela Argiriou, the official agent for his campaign, said she had nothing to do with fundraisin­g, which was carried out by the riding associatio­n, a separate organizati­on.

The Conservati­ves collected many donations at a big fundraisin­g dinner held at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth hotel on May 20, 2009, according to the riding’s financial officer, Benoit Larocque.

Larocque said a pair of tickets to the fundraiser sold for $1,000 but resulted in a $666.66 donation after subtractin­g the cost of the event, which featured a keynote speech by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Montreal’s The Suburban newspaper reported at the time of the dinner that “more than 2,300 people paid $150 a ticket,” to mingle with Harper, with then-environmen­t minister Jim Prentice and with former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier.

Sen. Leo Housakos, who was then Harper’s key organizer in Quebec, organized the event. Housakos, a close friend of Harper’s then-director of communicat­ions, Dimitri Soudas, did not respond to queries about his role in fundraisin­g for the riding associatio­n

A number of other donors actually reported giving more than is recorded in Elections Canada’s records. Larocque did not respond to an email asking for an explanatio­n of the discrepanc­y.

Forensic accountant Damien Alksnis, who examined a spreadshee­t of donors and donations put together by Postmedia News, says the results warrant investigat­ion.

However, a fundraisin­g event — such as a dinner or golf tournament — could explain the pattern of donations seen in the Laurier-Sainte-Marie riding, according to Alksnis.

Federal law requires riding associatio­ns to submit audited financial records to Elections Canada each year.

Larocque, who was a paid organizer for the party in 2009, said he has copies of all the cheques, and was surprised to hear that some donors say they didn’t write cheques.

“The donations were submitted to an auditor who oversaw them and the (financial records) have since been accepted by Elections Canada.”

He declined to produce copies of the cheques for Postmedia News, but said he would provide copies to Elections Canada or donors if they asked.

 ?? Chris Mikula/ Postmedia News ?? Senator Leo Housakos won’t comment on his fundraisin­g role for a Tory riding associatio­n in Quebec under scrutiny for possible funding irregulari­ties.
Chris Mikula/ Postmedia News Senator Leo Housakos won’t comment on his fundraisin­g role for a Tory riding associatio­n in Quebec under scrutiny for possible funding irregulari­ties.

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