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        Tory senator surprised to be mentioned at Quebec construction-industry inquiry

        Fecha:Nov 29,2012

        Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos said he was surprised to hear his name mentioned at a commission of inquiry into Quebec’s construction industry Wednesday, and questioned the accuracy of the emerging evidence.

        In an interview with Postmedia News, Housakos confirmed that he frequented an exclusive Montreal club to do networking, while noting that he had no business dealings with any of the representatives from the construction industry or municipal politics who are now under scrutiny by the commission over allegations of corruption and bid-rigging.

        Housakos said he joined the venue, Club 357c, as a marketing consultant in 2007 and 2008, following an invitation from Montreal-area businessman Paolo Catania.

        “I just don’t see the issue (with me) at the commission,” Housakos said. “I have never been in any shape, way or form in any business activity with these guys, directly or indirectly.”

        Housakos, who gave up his membership at the prestigious club in Old Montreal before Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his appointment to the Senate in December 2008, said he was prepared to answer questions at the commission, headed by Quebec Justice France Charbonneau.

        “At the end of the day, I support the commission’s work 100-per-cent, and I just want to put on the record (that) at no such time has the commission called me or questioned me in regards to anything,” Housakos said. “This is the first time I have gotten wind of my name at this commission and it would have been, I think, appropriate that they would take the time to inform people and question people on issues before they go forward.”

        Housakos confirmed that he had crossed paths over the years with businessmen such as Catania and Joe Borsellino, as well as Bernard Trepanier, a fundraiser for municipal political party Union Montreal.

        Catania and Trepanier are among a group of people facing charges in connection with an alleged bid-rigging scheme over a city of Montreal construction contract.

        Housakos could not recall details of all of the meetings he had at the exclusive venue, but said he was checking his records to review what happened.

        “We’re talking about events that happened five years ago, so my recollection is not as clear as it should be,” Housakos said.

        But Housakos suggested some of the records presented as evidence Wednesday about his events at Club 357c were mistaken.

        For example, he said a June 2007 event he hosted on behalf of the provincial Action democratique du Quebec party was not a fundraising event, as it was described at the commission, but rather a networking event to meet with the business community. He also denied evidence suggesting that Borsellino, from Garnier Construction, had attended the event.

        “So that to me is false. It’s erroneous,” Housakos said. “I don’t know if he was at the club while I was at that event, but at no such time did I ever come across Joe Borsellino in 2007 and I have no reason to believe that Mr. Borsellino would have been present at any of my meetings or events.”

        Housakos, who was appointed by the government to the board of Via Rail before his Senate appointment in December 2008, also worked as an executive at a prominent engineering firm, BPR, in 2008 and was a major fundraiser for the ADQ.

        He said he had met Catania several years earlier at a public event and was later invited to join the club.

        “Paolo Catania was the gentleman who introduced me to the club, years back. He was an active member in the club,” Housakos said. “We could have, on a couple of occasions, had lunch, that would be for sure. It’s possible.”

        Housakos also noted that no one received any favours or preferential treatment from the federal government.

        “I haven’t seen any accusations – that’s the problem I face with this,” he said. “I know in the House of Commons, they’re going to take liberties again, under the curtain of parliamentary immunity, and it’s unfortunate, but you can’t defend yourself against no allegations, and all I’ve seen so far are some breakfasts and lunches at a club that I was a member of with individuals who since then seem to have had some difficulty with the law, in some cases, obviously not in all of their cases. So what more can I say?”

        Opposition MPs asked the Harper government to explain Wednesday whether it knew what was going on in the private meetings at the club.

        Harper dismissed the issue as “hearsay,” without mentioning Housakos by name.

        “I have no information of any credible allegation against this particular individual,” Harper said.


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