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West Block work could grind to a halt

Renovations on Parliament Hill could fall further behind schedule after a parliamentary committee passed a motion yesterday to stop work until MPs are satisfied construction contracts are being awarded fairly.

Renovations on Parliament Hill could fall further behind schedule after a parliamentary committee passed a motion yesterday to stop work until MPs are satisfied construction contracts are being awarded fairly.

Liberal MP John McKay, who chairs the committee probing the controversial West Block contract, will report to the House of Commons within days. The moratorium on construction will then go to a vote by all MPs.

The Mounties began investigating a $9-million contract to restore part of the historic site after Montreal construction boss Paul Sauve claimed his firm won the deal by paying off a lobbyist with ties to the Conservative party.

Opposition MPs say they want to be sure there’s no funny business going on before work is allowed to resume on the West Block.

“We’re being ripped off now,” New Democrat MP Pat Martin said after committee. “These renovations have turned into a billion-dollar fiasco.”

The $769-million restoration of West Block — the oldest of the three stone buildings on Parliament Hill — is already behind schedule. The plan called for MPs and their staff to vacate the building this fall so major construction could begin. That hasn’t happened yet.

Masonry work on the West Block renovation has been at a standstill since RJW Stonemasons walked off the job last month and went to the Mounties.

Company president Bobby Watt said he isn’t being paid by the Montreal-based bonding company running the project. He also said he’s being squeezed out of the masonry job in favour of another firm, and he has asked the RCMP to look into that.

Yesterday, the committee heard from Sauve about his role in the West Block affair. The businessman’s testimony contained few revelations, but gave opposition MPs fresh ammo with which to attack the Conservatives.

The Tories deflected those attacks by questioning Sauve’s credibility.

“We’re not certain that this gentleman is providing us with the full accounting of the events that led up to his involvement,” Conservative MP Chris Warkentin said.

 
 
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