Quebec corruption inquiry to hear from cash-counting receptionist
Charbonneau commission hearings resume after 7-week break
A former Union Montreal receptionist who according to a star witness grew fed up with counting cash collected by the party's fundraiser will be the first on the stand when the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in Quebec's construction industry resumes after a seven-week break.
With Alexandra Pion's testimony, commissioner France Charbonneau will be backtracking to what she heard in late October, when a former policy adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper testified about the bizarre financial dealings he witnessed during his previous career in Montreal municipal politics.
Martin Dumont, who worked for Union Montreal as a party organizer, told the inquiry that Pion took him aside and complained to him that she no longer wanted to be asked to count money for Bernard Trépanier — the partisan fundraising official dubbed Mr. Three Per Cent, who is accused of collecting kickbacks from construction companies on behalf of Union Montreal.
"I asked, 'How much money did you have to count?'" Dumont testified last October. "She told me she had counted approximately $850,000 with Mr. Trépanier."
Dumont said he advised Trépanier to buy a cash-counting machine, and one was later installed.
Dumont to be recalled as witness
Dumont himself is to be called back to the stand this week to clarify some elements of his testimony.
However, CBC's French-language service has learned that Dumont's lawyer will seek leave to postpone her client's appearance to a later date. Dumont has reportedly been on sick leave from his current job in the pharmaceutical industry since the start of the year.
Questions have been raised about Dumont's sensational testimony in the weeks since he made headlines with his initial appearance before the commission.
Dumont said former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay turned a blind eye when presented with two sets of financial records for a 2004 byelection campaign in the St-Laurent borough. Tremblay quit political life within days of that testimony, vehemently denying Dumont's version of the facts.
Both Tremblay and the current mayor of Montreal, Michael Applebaum, have met with commission investigators during the hiatus in public hearings, but neither is yet scheduled to take the stand.
The third witness to appear in the coming days is a sergeant-supervisor with the Quebec provincial police, Isabelle Toupin.
Charbonneau is expected to give an opening address when hearings resume Monday morning, to set out her roadmap for the next few weeks.
It's expected she will move the spotlight away from municipal politics and begin to explore the relationship between provincial political parties and the construction industry.
New counsel to be named
The commission's chief counsel, Sonia Lebel, is also expected to announce the names of three new prosecutors hired in recent weeks.
CBC's French-language service has learned one of them is Erika Porter.
The former chief counsel, Sylvain Lussier, quit last October over what he said were "unfounded" allegations of a conflict of interest, after a paving firm he once represented was raided by Quebec's permanent anti-corruption squad, known by its French acronym UPAC.
The deputy chief counsel, Claude Chartrand, quit a short time later.
The fact the commission is replacing two departed prosecutors with three new ones is the latest indication that the costs of the inquiry are mounting quickly. The Charbonneau commission has already spent 60 per cent of its original $14.6-million budget.
Charbonneau has been given until October to table her final report, however it is expected she may ask for more time.