MONTREAL - Two Conservative ridings were the biggest Quebec beneficiaries of a federal stimulus program set aside for rural areas, while other Tory-held areas received a considerable share of funds reserved for the province.
Numbers compiled by The Canadian Press reveal that in the initial wave of stimulus spending under the Community Adjustment Fund — a program that exists across the country — the two Quebec ridings that received the most were key electoral battlegrounds held by the Tories.
The calculations also reveal that of the 10 ridings to receive the most money in Quebec, four were Conservative — even though the party only holds 11, or 15 per cent, of the province's 75 seats.
The riding to receive the most money under the program was Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Riviere-du-Loup, which Conservative Bernard Genereux wrestled from the Bloc Quebecois in a 2009 byelection.
Projects in Genereux's riding, which is located in eastern Quebec, were awarded more than $8 million worth of stimulus money, including $2.8 million in the months immediately following his victory.
The Canadian Press obtained Access to Information documents that listed where the program money was spent.
The research tracked spending delivered between June 2009 and March 2010 through the adjustment fund, which targets largely rural areas and communities of fewer than 250,000 people.
The results offer only a partial snapshot of Ottawa's $62-billion program to bolster the economy amid the global recession.
They also echo findings from a 2009 Canadian Press study of the first round of spending announcements under the program. That research showed that in almost every province, a Conservative riding was first in terms of overall grant money received.
Ottawa insists political considerations do not factor into the decisions of who gets what.
"Projects are evaluated based on merit," said Sophie Legendre, interim director of operations for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.
"The projects are analyzed according to established criteria."
Along with the cash for Genereux's riding, federal funds was also sprinkled on MP Denis Lebel's riding of Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean, which had been Bloc Quebecois turf until a 2007 byelection.
Lebel is the minister responsible for Quebec's economic development agency.
Legendre said Lebel has final say on funding decisions, following a review by local economic development officials.
The Bloc Quebecois riding of Shefford, in southern Quebec, holds third spot on the list of the province's most-rewarded electoral districts with $6 million from the fund.
But that windfall for Shefford is the product of a single large grant to an aviation company, whereas 10 separate projects in Montmagny and 16 in Roberval received funding.
In fourth spot is Megantic—L'Erable, home to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant, Christian Paradis. Here nine different grants were awarded over the nine-month period, for a total of $2.5 million in aid.
Paradis's office did not respond to a request for comment, while the Bloc also declined.
Following Megantic are a series of Bloc ridings: Sherbrooke ($2.45 million); Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Becancour ($2.1 million); Trois-Rivieres ($2 million); Drummond ($2 million); and Richmond—Arthabaska ($1.8 million).
During the 2008 election campaign, Conservative campaign strategists targeted both Trois-Rivieres and Drummond as sites for a possible Tory breakthrough.
Rounding out the top 10 is Beauce, the riding south of Quebec City held by former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier. It received $1.6 million.