A star Charbonneau Commission witness whose testimony led in part to the the resignation of Montreal's mayor is now being challenged to back up some of his claims.
The bombshell-filled inquiry kicked off again Monday, following a lengthy holiday break, and it began by taking a closer look at Martin Dumont's testimony from the fall session.
Dumont was called back to the stand Monday.
His lawyer, Suzanne Gagne, had argued he should be granted a stay because his doctor had declared him unfit to work for at least one month. His medical condition is subject to a publication ban.
Another witness had contradicted some of Dumont's testimony from the fall.
Alexandra Pion told the inquiry earlier Monday that she worked as a secretary at Union Montreal headquarters and was only asked on one occasion by Bernard Trepanier, a Union Montreal fundraiser, to help him count $50 and $20 in a briefcase.
But Pion said she immediately rebuffed Trepanier.
"It wasn't in my job description to count money," Pion told the inquiry. "I simply left the room."
In testimony last fall, Dumont said he saw considerable evidence of illegal activity while working for the mayor's party, Union Montreal.
He said he intervened because he was disgusted that party officials made a summer employee, Pion, count $850,000 in cash.
Dumont said he urged a party fundraising official — Trepanier, who has been nicknamed "Mr. Three Per Cent'' in Quebec media — to stop involving the student in that kind of activity.
Pion said she did not know if others in the office were witness to such an exchange. But she said she never once discussed the issue with Dumont and wasn't sure how much money there was.
"It was a suitcase filled with money," Pion told the inquiry. "I saw it and I left."
Pion confirmed that there were two safes in the Union Montreal offices but couldn't say if there were money-counting machines in the office.
The inquiry resumed Monday after a seven-week hiatus with a winter session that will continue its look at the City of Montreal and delve into political party financing.
The Charbonneau Commission broke off its hearings at the end of November following a wild session that saw the longtime mayors of Montreal and Laval resign in a cloud of controversy.
The probe has already heard testimony about how the price of public projects was inflated with the proceeds split between construction firms, political parties, city workers and the Mafia.
Lead counsel Sonia LeBel said Monday that the financing of political parties — municipal and provincial — will also be on the menu.
"It's a process that requires patience," LeBel said. "The portrait of the situation will become clear, element by element and witness by witness."
The inquiry has added four lawyers to its staff over the seven-week break. It has also met recently with numerous witnesses.
Dumont, who already testified back in October, was a former aide to ex-Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay before he went to Ottawa to work for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
While testifying in the fall, he alleged Tremblay was aware of illegal financing within his own party. Although he resigned, Tremblay at the time denied Dumont's allegations and called them "completely false.''
Justice France Charbonneau said anyone caught lying on the stand would face charges.
While witnesses cannot be charged criminally for behaviour they describe before the commission, they can still be charged for perjury.
Charbonneau said the inquiry will continue with two commissioners hearing the testimony.
The third commissioner, Roderick A. Macdonald, has been unable to attend the public hearings as he recovers from cancer.
Macdonald will continue to work behind the scenes with the research team.
The Charbonneau Commission is supposed to table its final report by Oct. 19, 2013. However, there is increasing speculation that it might be hard-pressed to complete its work on time.