The former general manager of Union Montréal said he saw no problem with accepting $5,000 a month for consulting work with a civil engineering firm while working for the municipal political party.
Christian Ouellet worked for Union Montréal from 2004 to 2008. At the same time, he maintained a contract with Roche Ltée, one of the largest engineering firms in the country.
He told the province's corruption commission this morning that his contract with Roche pre-dated his time with the party. His role was to help the firm move into the Montreal market by arranging meetings with elected officials and preparing a communication plan for the firm, which was aggressively trying to raise its profile on the island.
Ouellet said he did not tell the mayor or the party's executive when he took the job with the party in 2004 that he was still on Roche's payroll.
"You’re the general manager of a municipal political party. You [are involved in] party financing and political organizing. You know you’re receiving a sum of money from a civil engineering firm on the side and you don’t see a problem there?" Commissioner Renaud Lachance asked Ouellet.
"No," he responded, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
Ouellet said that he didn’t do much for Roche during the time his contract overlapped with his work for Union Montréal, which he repeatedly referred to as his second contract. He said if the party had lost the election in 2005, he could have been out of work and therefore didn’t annul his work with the engineering firm.
Oulette said that he considered Roche and Union Montreal to be two of his clients and he had no exclusivity agreement with either.
Lachance reminded the witness several times that he was a salaried employee of Union Montreal at the time and not a contracted consultant.
Ouellet was pressed on what his functions were with Roche while he was employed with Union Montreal.
He responded vaguely, but confirmed that he did "not a lot."
"They gave you that [money] because you’re a nice person?" Lachance asked.
"I’ve already told you everything that I did," Ouellet responded.
Oulette said that he continued to set up meetings for Roche with elected officials while he was employed by the party, but described that practice as infrequent and said the meetings took place at political cocktail events.
Between 2003 and 2008, he was paid a total of $327,250 from Roche, according to documents presented before the commission.
Conversations with Trépanier
Earlier in the morning, Ouellet described the ease with which the party was able to raise money for its campaigns.
There was no need, he said, to break the law that dictated limits on political fundraising and campaign spending.
He said he never saw cash coming into the party’s headquarters. The only exception was the party "hat," which was brought out during fundraisers to collect anonymous donations, a practice which was then allowed by law.
Ouellet also told the commission that he didn’t ask questions when the party’s fundraiser, Bernard Trépanier, who has been referred to as Mr. Three per cent in earlier testimony for the cash he allegedly demanded from engineering firms for the party, left suddenly in 2006.
He said he had no relationship with Trépanier.
However, as has been the case with numerous previous witnesses, the commission prosecutor presented phone records showing 67 telephone calls between Ouellet and Trépanier, many of those calls after Trépanier had left the party.
Ouellet said he had "no idea" what the conversations were about.