Charbonneau Commission star witness implicates Vaillancourt
A star witness at the Charbonneau Commission says illegal fundraising was commonplace in the province's politics and he says it happened under various political parties.
Former construction boss Lino Zambito has told the Charbonneau Commission that there is a similar system of collusion in the construction industry in Laval, as there existed in Montreal, and that construction companies doing civil engineering work in Laval were required to kick back 2.5% of the value of their contracts,to Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, similar to a 3% kick back Zambito has told the commission companies in Montreal had to pay to Mayor Gerald Tremblay's party, Union Montreal.
Zambito is also testifying that he funnelled $88,000 over the last decade to all Quebec political parties through third parties — notably through family, friends and employees.
Zambito says the practice helped parties circumvent the province's donation limit, which was $3,000.
In one case he says he turned over $30,000 — 10 times the legal donation limit at the time — at the request of a prominent provincial Liberal fundraiser who was the spouse of a minister.
But it wasn't just the Liberals; he says he also gave smaller amounts to the Parti Quebecois and the now-defunct ADQ.
Zambito says he later reimbursed associates who made the donations. On the witness stand, Zambito expressed remorse for putting his friends and family in an embarrassing position.
He says some of these people didn't care about politics, that he urged them to participate, and he says they do not deserve to see their names on a public donors' list.
In a dramatic moment of testimony, Zambito has blamed a broken system that he says puts unfair pressure on politicians to raise money and on people in the construction industry to deliver it.
He says that system revolved, at the provincial level, around engineering firms.
He says large companies were intimately involved with political parties and they constantly solicited construction bosses for money.
He offers two suggestions for fixing the fundraising system: Increase the public subsidy for political parties, or increase the donation limited.
Otherwise, he says, a black market will inevitably develop. He says political parties are desperate for cash to finance their campaigns, and without sufficient fundraising channels they will be tempted to resort to illict means to get it.
Zambito is beginning his sixth day of testimony which has seen an explosive volley of allegations.
At the municipal level he has described a cartel-like structure that colluded to pick who would win public construction contracts.
He says the system included bribes for municipal officials, kickbacks to certain political parties, and a percentage claimed by the Italian Mafia.
None of Zambito's allegations have been proven in court and his allegations have been met with denials of any wrongdoing.
With files from CJAD
Photo: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press