1995 vote `stolen' by No side

New book probes `secret' group Inquiry sought on referendum `theft'

Élections 2006

MONTREAL-The federal government knowingly broke Quebec's referendum spending law in 1995, and a public inquiry should be called to look into this, two authors said yesterday.
"The theft of a referendum on the future of a people is not a trivial matter," Robin Philpot, co-author of Les secrets d'Option Canada told reporters yesterday at a news conference called to launch the book.
Normand Lester argued that Option Canada - created as a legal entity in the fall of 1995 - was used to contravene the spending restrictions of Quebec's referendum legislation.
"It was a secret organization," he said. "No one knew it existed until 1997, when (the late investigative reporter) Claude Arpin of The Gazette wrote about it."
The two authors dismissed the claim by Liberal Leader Paul Martin that the Parti Québécois government spent $25 million during the same period to promote sovereignty.
"That was done legally under the control of the National Assembly," Philpot said.
Lester said he was able to find documents related to Option Canada beside a dumpster in a suburban mall parking lot. On the basis of those documents - invoices, bills and cancelled cheques - the two authors report that:
Claude Dauphin, who was president of Option Canada, billed the organization $21,155.82 between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15, 1995;
Pierre Pettigrew, then a consultant, was paid $12,000 by Option Canada for a series of five articles he wrote that were published in La Presse;
A business group in Quebec received $343,760.15 from Option Canada;
The No committee's referendum night event was paid for, not by the No committee, but by Option Canada.
Philpot said the expenditures by Option Canada - which were not declared by the No committee, as required by the referendum law - were "one of the many ways in which the referendum result was stolen."

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