The RCMP is investigating one of the construction contracts awarded for the nearly $1-billion project to renovate the West Block of Parliament, a Radio-Canada/Globe and Mail investigation has learned.

The tendering process to repair the Parliament buildings began in 2007.  Paul Sauvé, a Montrealer who owns the brick-laying company LM Sauvé, told Radio-Canada he hired Gilles Varin to lobby for him so he could win a government contract that could be worth millions of dollars.


The tendering process for the nearly $1-billion project to repair the West Block of Parliament began in 2007. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Varin, a long-time Quebec Conservative supporter, was not a registered lobbyist.

Sauvé said Varin claimed he had very close friends who worked for Public Works Canada. Sauvé said he agreed to pay Varin a monthly retainer averaging $4,000.

After LM Sauvé won a $9-million contract, Sauvé began to make larger payments to Varin — an extra $70,000 plus taxes. In all, Sauvé said, he paid more than $140,000 to Varin's company.

In July 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper cracked down on lobbyists, making it illegal for someone to collect bonuses for contracts awarded.

Varin told Radio-Canada that he felt he didn't need to register as a lobbyist because all he did was pass along Sauvé's resumé to a friend. He also denied receiving any bonuses.

But Varin did speak with Hubert Pichet, a staff member of Conservative Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin. Pichet confirmed to Radio-Canada that Varin asked for contacts in the Public Works's minister's office.

Luc Juillet, director of the graduate school of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said that constituted lobbying.

"As soon as you undertake to communicate with a public office holder for the purpose of changing a law, changing a program, obtaining a contract, that essentially is lobbying,"Juillet said.

Sauvé's company eventually ran into delays and lost the federal contract. But sources confirm the RCMP is investigating how the contract was awarded.