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PM plays down ties to ad exec  

(PoliticsWatch posted February 19, 2004) OTTAWA -Prime Minister Paul Martin today played down any connection he has to Claude Boulay, president of Montreal-based Groupe Everest, a company that is at the centre of the $100 million Adscam. 

"In the 1990 (Liberal leadership) campaign, he helped in the beginning," he told reporters in French after a cabinet meeting. "But he quit the campaign. He did not finish the campaign with me. He started with me, but there were differences." 

Martin, in a sign that he may have toned down his media blitz strategy, did not elaborate and returned to his Centre Block office after fielding only a handful of questions. 

Boulay was the Quebec communications director on Martin's unsuccessful 1990 leadership campaign.

Yesterday, the Conservatives released a 1994 memo written by Martin's aide when he was finance minister offering "suggestions from myself and the minister regarding the proposal for our 1994 Retail Debt Strategy."

The memo said that it "makes the most sense" for Gingko/Groupe Everest to develop the strategy "rather than another ad agency." 

"In addition, Gingko/Groupe Everest should also serve as project manager/co-ordinator for the public relations firms which are appointed," the memo, which was written before the sponsorship program was created, added. 

Questions continue to swirl about whether the prime minister has any links to those involved in the sponsorship scandal. 

While in St. John's on the weekend, the prime minister said he may have met some of the other ad agency executives, but that would have been on a casual basis.

"It's conceivable that I've met the others," he said. "I don't know them. I've met a lot of people when I'm obviously in Montreal, but I don't know them."

Earlier this week, Conservative MP Monte Solberg joked about the prime minister's lack of knowledge about the Quebec-based companies involved in the sponsorship scandal. 

"The prime minister wants us to believe that whenever he heard Liberal hacks talking about Everest and Lafleur and Groupaction that they were talking about a mountain, a hockey player and a Montreal swingers club," he said in the House. 

Today, Martin also had to answer to yesterday's revelation by Conservative MP James Moore that one of the firms involved in the scandal, Media I.D.A. Vision, has received 20 government contracts worth a total of $1.9-million since Dec. 9.

"That was not a new contract," said the prime minister, who cancelled the sponsorship program on Dec. 13. "That was simply the extension of an old contract in order to bring the government to the point where there is an open competition, which is in the process of being held.

"So that was not a new contract."

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