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Ad exec says he did nothing wrong

(PoliticsWatch posted April 19, 2004) OTTAWA - The first head of one of the ad agencies implicated in Adscam testified before the Commons committee investigating the scandal, saying his firm did nothing wrong. 

Claude Boulay, who was formerly president of Groupe Everest up until a year ago, told the Public Accounts committee that his firm did not misappropriate money from the sponsorship program. 

"There was no wrongdoing with regards to Groupe Everest and its subsidiaries," he told the committee. 

Boulay was the only ad exec scheduled to appear before the committee who showed up today. Jean Breault, who headed up Groupaction, said he could not appear for medical reasons and the committee was unable to track down Gilles-Andre Gosselin of Gosselin Communication. 

Boulay took issue with the Auditor General's suggestions that the ad agencies did  little or no work for the commissions they received from the sponsorship program and a lacked proper documentation for the work that was done. 

He said the ad agencies were responsible for carrying out and implementing the sponsorships and that post-mortems were "usually" carried on individual sponsorship events. 

However, Boulay was unable to answer specifically about the $161,000 in commissions Everest and its subsidiary, Media I.D.A. Vision, received for transferring money from the sponsorship program to a production company, L'information essentielle, making a TV series about hockey legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard. 

"The four agencies and the agency of record received commissions totalling $438,000 for simply transferring the money to L'information essentielle," the Auditor General wrote in her November report. 

When repeatedly questioned about the value for money the government received from the ad agencies involvement in the Richard series, Boulay spoke generally about how the ad agencies "had to make sure the money was well spent." 

Boulay was also asked to explain why himself, his wife and his agency and its subsidiaries donated a total of $94,573 to the federal Liberal Party between 1996 and 2002. 

He said that his generosity to political parties was not focused specifically on the Liberals, but the Conservative Party also, which he said he donated money to but could not recall how much. 

Later, Conservative MP Jason Kenney informed Boulay that election disclosures show that he donated $106 to a Progressive Conservative candidate involved in a 1999 by-election. Again, Boulay questioned that amount and said his donations to the Tories was much higher, likely more than $1,000. 

According to Boulay, the amount donated to the Liberal Party is not a lot when you consider that it is spread out over six years. 

He downplayed any role he played in federal election campaigns in 1997 and 2000 and his role in Prime Minister Paul Martin's 1990 Liberal leadership bid. 

According to Boulay, he was never Martin's communications director for Quebec, but was a member of a strategic committee of about 20 individuals. 

Boulay was also questioned about a 1996 contract amendment that was tabled with the committee by Public Works whistleblower Allan Cutler. 

Cutler tabled a Jan. 26, 1996 memo he wrote questioning a $909,000 amendment to a contract with Groupe Everest for work for the finance department on the retail debt strategy when Martin was finance minister.

"I cannot recommend the amendment for the following reasons," Cutler wrote, listing reasons, including that the contract was covering a "completely retroactive situation" and that Groupe Everest "will presumably obtain a commission on the sub-contract without having done any work." 

But Boulay told the committee he had no recollection of Groupe Everest's work on the campaign. 

"This happened about 10 years ago and I have no information about it." 
 
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