Politics

2 Montreal companies admit to making $115,000 in illegal donations to Liberals, Conservatives

Companies agree to pay fines of three times the value of the donations, plus a portion of the costs associated with investigating the firms, in voluntary compliance agreements with the commissioner of Canada Elections.

Firms fined $450,000 by commissioner of Canada Elections

Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté. (Elizabeth Thompson/CBC)

Two Montréal-based companies have admitted to making illegal donations to the federal Liberal and Conservative parties totalling more than $115,000.

The two firms, Group AXOR Inc. and Axor Experts-Conseils Inc., entered into compliance agreements with the commissioner of Canada Elections for having made the donations between 2004 and 2009.

The firms were found to have donated $67,418.65 to the Liberal Party of Canada and $48,540.00 to the Conservative Party of Canada.

According to a release from the commissioner of Canada Elections, there was no evidence the Conservatives or the Liberals were aware of the illegal nature of the donations, all of which were returned.

As a part of the voluntary compliance agreement, each company had to pay a fine to the commissioner amounting to three times the value of the donations made, plus a portion of the costs associated with investigating the firms.

Group AXOR Inc. agreed to pay $248,712.80 to the Receiver General, while Axor Experts-Conseils Inc. agreed to pay $199,163.15.

"This is the first time, since the (Canada Elections Act) was recently amended, that we have been able to include payment of a sum to the Receiver General as a condition of a compliance agreement," Commissioner Yves Côté said in a statement.

"To have the ability to impose real consequences as part of these agreements will allow us much greater flexibility and will be extremely useful going forward. Canadians should expect to see us make full use of this new tool from this point on."

In 2010, three subsidiaries in the Montreal-based Axor group of companies admitted they donated more than $150,000 through their employees to Quebec's political parties. A total of $113,500 was given to the Quebec Liberals, $34,000 to the Parti Québécois and $5,000 to the Action démocratique du Québec.

Today's compliance agreement is not the first to be struck with the commissioner's office.

SNC-Lavalin 

An investigation by the office found that Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin also broke federal election laws by secretly reimbursing employees who had made donations to federal political parties.

The investigation found that between 2004 and 2009, Liberals received more than $100,000 in those illegal donations and the Conservatives received more than $8,000. In Canada, corporate donations have been banned since 2004.

Like the Axor companies, SNC-Lavalin avoided charges by signing what is known as a "compliance agreement" in 2016 with the commissioner of Canada Elections and promising not to break the law in the future.

Earlier this year, CBC's The Fifth Estate/Enquête obtained a document revealing the names of several former top executives at SNC-Lavalin who were involved in the scheme.

The opposition cried foul and wanted to know if the Prime Minister's Office had intervened in the case to ensure SNC-Lavalin avoided prosecution, prompting Côté to issue a public defence of his office.

"In my time as commissioner, there has never been any attempt by elected officials, political staffers or public servants to influence the course of an investigation or to interfere with our work," Côté said in the statement in May of this year.

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