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Ouellet often got on other VPs turf at Canada Post  

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. January 17, 2005]

OTTAWA — A former executive with Canada Post told the inquiry into the sponsorship scandal on Monday that former Canada Post president Andre Ouellet often encroached on the turf of other executives. 
Daniel Sawaya, who is the vice president of marketing at Canada Post, made the comments as Gomery inquiry lead counsel Bernard Roy tried to make links between Ouellet's involvement in deals that resulted in certain ad firms getting business even if lower management opposed the plans. 

"Yes, I sometimes felt that he did get on my turf," said Sawaya. He said Ouellet's involvement included not only his projects but the projects of every other vice president. 

He also testified that this included control of the tickets of the Crown corporation's box at the Molson Centre in Montreal. 

Sawaya said although he protested the micromanagement at first he eventually accepted it as Ouellet's management style.

Canada Post was one of the Crown Corporations cited in the Auditor General's report into the sponsorship program. 

Sheila Fraser highlighted the corporation's involvement in a television series about hockey legend Rocket Richard noting there was "no signed contract" or business proposal to sport the corporation's decision to spend $1.6 million to sponsor the series. 

Sawaya was also questioned about Canada Post's decision to participate in the sponsorship of the Canadian Junior Hockey League with signs and logos in 46 arenas across the country. 

According to Sawaya, the proposal for the sponsorship came from Lafleur Communications, which was paid $97,000 by Canada Post for a $500,000 sponsorship for coordination fees and commissions. 

Sawaya said he was not aware that Lafleur also collected a commission from the federal government for the same sponsorship. 

The small world where the ad agencies and executives at Canada Post had crossed paths in the past also emerged in testimony from another witness on Monday. 

Appearing was Canada Post's vice president of communications Alain Guilbert, a former journalist who was once an associate at one of the ad firms that did business with Canada Post and was mentioned in Fraser's report - Groupe Everest. 

Guilbert said before working at Canada Post, he created Everest's public relations division while he was at the firm from 1987 to 1990. 

Guilbert also testified that he had previously worked with the head of another ad agency, Jean Lafleur of the Lafleur communications, when the two men were both involved in the organizing committee for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

However, he downplayed this relationship, saying the two men did not keep in touch over the years. 

And Guilbert had previous ties to his future boss, Ouellet, and told the inquiry that the two men were friends when they both attended the University of Sherbrooke in the early 60s. 

He told the inquiry he was approached by a headhunting agency to become the corporation's director of communications in 1997. However, before he accepted it he asked for the job to be reclassified to the level of vice-president so he would have a direct relationship with the corporation's CEO. 

The job was reclassified for Guilbert and he took on more responsibilities when Ouellet became president of Canada Post in 1998. 

Ouellet is a former Chretien cabinet minister who was suspended with pay in February by Prime Minister Paul Martin after Canada Post's name came up in the Auditor General's report. 

He resigned in August after an audit found questionable spending and hiring practices. He spent over $2 million in travel and hospitality over eight years.

Ouellet was righteously defiant and critical of the auditor general when appeared before the Public Accounts committee in April of last year. 

He criticized Fraser for wounding the 60,000 employees of the corporation and for wounding him. 

"The past month has been a living hell for me and my family," Ouellet said in his opening statement. 

Ouellet said he was informed of his suspension by letter and had not been able to talk to employees at Canada Post after his suspension. 

"The only thing they allowed me was to go to the post office to buy stamps," said Ouellet. 

He is scheduled to appear before Justice Gomery this week.  

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