OTTAWA - There's more trouble and fresh allegations involving a big-money Parliament Hill renovation contract being investigated by the Mounties.
Masonry work ground to a halt on the West Block renovation Friday after a sub-contractor walked off the job and went to the RCMP.
RJW Stonemasons president Bobby Watt says he isn't being paid by the Montreal-based bonding company running the project. He claims he's being squeezed out of the masonry job in favour of another firm and he's asked the RCMP to look into that.
Last month, Watt's lawyers notified the bonding firm, L'Unique Assurances General, that RJW intended to take it to court over $200,000 in unpaid work.
A copy of the Sept. 23 letter was provided to The Canadian Press.
"It has come to our attention that your agent on site ... has been deliberately attempting to interfere with the contractual relations between our client and its stonemasons by deliberately stating that L'Unique's intent is to squeeze out RJW by failing to make payment in accordance with representations and promises made by L'Unique," the letter states.
Lawyers for L'Unique responded in a letter this week, denying any breach of contract.
The Mounties are already investigating a $9-million contract awarded to Montreal construction company LM Sauve in 2008 to do the job.
LM Sauve owner Paul Sauve has said he hired Tory-connected businessman Gilles Varin to help win the original contract, eventually paying him $140,000. But the company went bankrupt a year later and lost the contract.
L'Unique took over the project after the bankruptcy and hired RJW to finish the masonry work.
L'Unique declined to comment on the specifics of the matter.
"For obvious reasons, we don't want to talk publicly of problems that can be solved in a minute," said Jacques Canac-Marquis, the company's director of service.
"We have to find out if they are real problems or not, and how to solve it. Period."
The RCMP's Montreal division, which is looking into the original complaint over the West Block contract, wouldn't comment on the new allegations.
"The RCMP acknowledges that the matter that you're referring to regarding the allegations made by Mr. Paul Sauve is now in the hands of the 'C' division," Cpl. Caroline Letang said.
"We will look into the matter and decide where to take it from there. We're not in a position to comment any further on this specific matter at this time."
The controversy has caused a political headache for the Conservatives, with the opposition raising the prospect that the Tories took kickbacks in return for handing out government contracts.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists there's no evidence of wrongdoing by the Tories, emphasizing that no members of his government are under investigation in the matter.
The Conservatives say Varin has never been a member or organizer for the current party, but there are strong links between Sauve, Varin and the Tories.
In January 2009 — months after his company got the $9-million contract — Sauve organized a fundraiser for the Conservative riding association in Bourassa, in the Montreal area.
Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis has been under fire over the fundraiser, during which he talked with at least two Quebec construction bosses.
Paradis insisted last week that he did not discuss any government business at the fundraiser.
"At no time was there any discussion about government business," he told the House of Commons. "It was strictly a fundraising event."
But a spokesman later said the minister did listen to a businessman lay out his gripes with the federal contracting process at the event.
Paradis was Public Works minister at the time of the fundraiser, but not when Sauve got the West Block contract.
Sauve claims Varin and Gilles Prud'Homme, the head of the Conservative riding association in Bourassa, both encouraged him to throw the fundraiser after he got the renovation job.
Elections Canada records show that Sauve donated $1,100 on Jan. 26, 2009, to the Conservative riding association in Bourassa, and gave $1,000 to Tory candidate Hubert Pichet in La Pointe-de-l'Ile.
Varin is a long-time Tory supporter and he donated to the party as recently as Jan. 26, 2009, giving $500 to the Conservative riding association in Bourassa. In November 2007, he gave $400 to the Tory riding association in Laurier-Sainte-Marie.
Varin also gave money to Liberal MP Denis Coderre when he was a cabinet minister in 2003.