Que. construction inquiry scrutinizes meetings involving a federal senator

MONTREAL – A sitting member of Canada’s Senate, who has been an influential fundraiser for the federal Conservative party, has been named at Quebec’s construction inquiry for attending meetings now being scrutinized at the high-profile probe.

Sen. Leo Housakos is listed as having attended two meetings and hosted one at a swanky, members-only Montreal club.

His name appears in a detailed ledger of people who frequented Club 357c, a high-end establishment located at that address on de la Commune Street, in the heart of Montreal’s old city.

The document was deposited before Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission today and includes Housakos’ name as well as those of prominent members of the Quebec Liberal party and local municipal councillors, among others.

The dates Housakos frequented the club all precede his appointment to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2008. Previously, he used to work for engineering firm BPR and as head of fundrasing for the now defunct Action democratique du Quebec.

Housakos’ name appears in a first instance for a breakfast meeting on May 17, 2007, hosted by Bernard Poulin, head of S.M. Group International, an engineering firm.

The event was attended by two others — including Bernard Trepanier, a fundraiser for the Union Montreal municipal party who has become dubbed in local media as “Mr. Three Per Cent” for the alleged corrupt fundraising practices of the city’s ruling party. Also at the meeting was Lison Benarroch, a vice-president with S.M. Group International.

On June 21, Housakos himself hosted a dinner and cocktail fundraiser for the now defunct Action democratique du Quebec, for which he was a chief fundraiser.

The event was attended by 12 people, but the only name that isn’t blacked out among them is Joe Borsellino, head of Garnier Construction.

Housakos’ name appears on a third occasion for a noon meeting in April 2008 with Paolo Catania — who now faces criminal charges and heads a construction empire described at the inquiry as having extensive links to the Sicilian Mafia.

Investigators have said that names of people they did not recognize or were not relevant to them had been blacked out.

However, Housakos’ name appears in the document.

There were only two ways to gain access to the Montreal club — you had to be a member or be invited by a member.

The club itself, where membership runs about $3,500 a year, is of no interest to Quebec’s corruption inquiry, commission counsel Denis Gallant noted Tuesday.

But who went to meet there is.

The full list includes numerous construction bosses, engineering firm executives, city officials, municipal politicians and a few Quebec Liberals.

The provincial Liberals who attended meetings include the former education minister, Line Beauchamp, and the former family minister, Tony Tomassi, who faces criminal charges in an unrelated matter. One of the party’s top organizers, Pierre Bibeau, was also on the list.

The inquiry has not alleged that anything illegal went on at the club — only that it hosted meetings that show clear links between the construction industry and people involved in political fundraising.

Inquiry investigators became interested in the club in October after a previous witness, a loanshark with ties to Catania, mentioned making a cash drop at the establishment for a municipal official who now faces criminal charges.

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