Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who Shafted Benoit Labonté?

Montreal's mayoral race turned into a real farce with last week's revelation that Benoit Labonté, Louise Harel's right-hand man had in large part financed his run for his party leadership run with under the table money taken from members of the construction industry. The money is alleged to have been provided by the notorious Tony Accurso and at least 10 other players in the industry, who are accused of colluding on tenders in relation to City of Montreal's construction contracts. It has been speculated that because of this alleged collusion, city construction projects cost upwards of 35% more than necessary.

It's always disappointing when politicians who have staked their reputation on honesty turn out to be exactly what they accuse their enemies of being, à la Elliot Spitzer. When they do get caught, the fall from grace is never pretty and for Benoit Labonté, it means that his professional life is destroyed. In politics, perception is as important as reality and on both counts Labonté is damaged goods. He is going down the same path that Frank Zampino travelled a few short months ago, the road to obscurity.

To say that Mr. Labonté was surprised by the revelations is an understatement, he was in fact, completely blindsided by the accusations and actually tried to brazen it out for a few days, until he realized the case against him was unassailable.
It must have been quite a shock for him to realize that he had been betrayed and that there was a Judas among his closest of confidants.

The only question that remains is, who shafted Benoit Labonte?

I don't have any good contacts in Vision Montreal or among his staff. Labonté and I, are not on the same wavelength and run in different circles and so I can only speculate.

There is however, overwhelming evidence that he was betrayed by one of his closest advisers.

First of all, you can dismiss any notion that this story was the result of good investigative reporting, the information uncovered is just too good and too detailed. Labonté was served up.

"Deep Gorge," as I shall call the informant, had intimate knowledge of the secret meetings that Labonté held with Tony Accurso in the Old Montreal restaurants. Either he attended the meetings or set up the meetings, or was made privy to the meetings and that made him someone very close to Labonté.

Deep Gorge knew about the contents of the 'brown envelopes,' and had intimate knowledge of the dollar figures involved, so he either handled the envelopes, was apprised of their contents or actually handled or spent the money.

The most telling clue comes from the fact that the reporters had records of Mr Labonté's telephone calls, which indeed revealed that he had talked to Mr. Accurso on at least two occasions.

Mr. Labonté was served up like a Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, no wonder reporters didn't back down when Labonté started making denials.

Deep Gorge knew just about every detail of Labonté's relationship with Accurso and the other construction industry players.
He knew first hand about the under the table payments.
He knew how many payments were received and who made them and the exact dollar amount of each. He also knew that Labonté spoke to Accurso by telephone and was able to photocopy cellular bills or had a password to get access to the online records.
Because of the range of information, the informant couldn't be a low level secretary or campaign worker. It can't be the police because although they could tap phone calls and bug rooms, they couldn't have the detailed information about the contents of the brown paper bags. Obviously it had to be someone big and there aren't that many players in Labonté's entourage.

I'm not going to speculate, but to me, it's likely that Deep Gorge was among his closest advisors.

Will we ever find out who he or she is?

"cui bono?" Latin for "who benefits?"

We should watch the members of Labonte's former entourage to see where they land. Other than a confession, it's just speculation and it may be a long time before we find out the truth.

Remember "Deep Throat."

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