OTTAWA - Conservative Senator Leo Housakos did not break any ethics rules while working within an engineering firm that landed a federal stimulus contract, a Senate watchdog said Monday.
The Canadian Press reported this fall that Housakos was on the payroll of Groupe BPR Inc., last September when it was awarded $4.5 million as part of a consortium studying the aging Champlain Bridge.
Housakos was a key organizer behind a Tory fundraiser in May attended by executives of BPR and board members of the federal bridge agency that later awarded the contract. The details of the contract were announced the same day as the fundraiser by Public Works Minister Christian Paradis.
Housakos asked Senate ethics officer Jean Fournier to offer his opinion on the matter, as opposition politicians hammered the government with allegations of an ethical breach.
Fournier said he "did not find any evidence that the senator used, or even attempted to use, his position as senator to influence the decision" of the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridge Inc. (JCCBI).
Fournier also said that he found the process for awarding the federal contract was "fair, rigorous and transparent and it followed standards and procedures that JCCBI uses to award other such contracts."
He said that Housakos told him that he did not even know BPR was bidding on the bridge contract, and that he had little contact with senior management because he was president of one of its subsidiaries. BPR executives confirmed this to Fournier.
"I therefore find that the allegations against Senator Housakos are unsubstantiated and without merit," Fournier wrote.
Housakos said through his office that he is "respecting the findings of the report."
Housakos had maintained throughout that he did not work for BPR, but for its wholly owned subsidiary TerrEau. After stories emerged about the matter, Housakos changed two publicly available biographies that stated he was vice-president of business development at BPR.
But Fournier said that Housakos did "have a private interest in BPR," because he was hired by BPR's president, served on the management committee of BPR Technologies and would acquire shares in the firm after a year on the job.
Unlike MPs, Senators are permitted to work for companies, sit on corporate boards, and carry on with personal business interests as long as they do not directly intersect with their Senate work or government business.
The bridge agency, JCCBI, is still studying the conduct of its two board members, Paul Kefalas and Serge Martel, who attended the Conservative fundraiser last May.
The agency's parent body, the Federal Bridge Corp. Ltd., has a code of ethics that prohibits its directors from participating in any political activity.