In case you missed it, here's what happened in Montreal on May 31

As Laval assistant city manager, Jean Roberge testifies at the Charbonneau Commission in 2013. Roberge worked closely with former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt. Charbonneau Commission

A look at the day’s events in and around Montreal:

Accurso trial: Witness says he worked both sides of Laval collusion scheme

Take care of politics and politics will take care of you.

That is an expression that always stuck with Jean Roberge, a man who worked both sides of Laval’s system of collusion when it came to awarding construction and engineering contracts. Roberge, 58, the former head of an engineering firm who went on to work for the city of Laval, testified on Thursday at the jury trial of Antonio Accurso, the construction magnate who is accused of being part of the corrupt system.

Roberge was the head of Équation Groupe Conseil, a company based in Laval, between 2002 and 2007. Before he took over the company Roberge worked there as an engineering technician and said he was content in his work. After he took over, he had to meet with people to drum up contracts and one person he met early on was Jean-Marc Melançon, a member of then-Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt’s executive committee.

“He said that if I took care of politics, politics would take care of me,” Roberge recalled of the meeting that earned him a subsequent meeting with Vaillancourt a month later. Roberge said he wanted his relatively small company to continue receiving contracts — worth between $25,000 to $150,000 — as it had before he took over.

Roberge said that, following the meetings with Melançon and Vaillancourt in 2002, he would receive phone calls from Claude Deguise, who was then the head of engineering for the city of Laval, informing him that his company would be awarded a contract. Deguise would also provide him with the name of another company that was considered for the work. Roberge said he knew that meant that, as part of his role in the collusion scheme, he was required to contact someone within the other company and arrange things. The other company would have to submit a bid for the work that was higher than ours, Roberge said.

Most of Équation Groupe Conseil’s revenue came from the private sector but Laval was an important client, Roberge said of his motivation to play along. Roberge said he made donations to Vaillancourt’s party and described how he once delivered an envelope, with $10,000 inside it, to the offices of Jean Gauthier, a notary who was always at Vaillancourt’s side at political fundraisers.

Roberge said that what stood out in his memory about the 2003 meeting was that it was held in a small office. He remains convinced Gauthier’s actual office was elsewhere in the building. Roberge said Gauthier was also careful to not touch the envelope. Instead, he opened a drawer and motioned to Roberge to place it inside.

Roberge said he met with Gauthier again a year or two later and handed him another envelope with between $6,000 and $8,000 inside it.

Quebec, Ottawa must boost subsidies for major events, industry group says

A group that represents 27 major festivals and events in Quebec is calling on governments to provide more funding for the events industry.

The Regroupement des événements majeurs internationaux says current subsidies don’t match the economic benefits its members create and increased funding would lead to more tourist spending.

On Thursday, it released a study conducted by KPMG that says 17 of the group’s members, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Osheaga and the Carnaval de Québec, generated $290.8 million in economic benefits.

That figure includes spending by 190,603 tourists who came from outside Quebec “mainly” to attend one of the events, as well as Quebecers who travelled more than 40 kilometres.

Each event was surveyed once between July 2016 and February 2018.

The 17 events received $15.1 million in subsidies from the provincial government and $9.7 million in subsidies from the federal government.

But Martin Roy, the president of RÉMI and Festivals and Major Events Canada, an affiliated group that represents events across Canada, said that money isn’t being distributed fairly.

While the economic impact of these events was 6.8 times higher than the Montreal Grand Prix, according to the study, they only received $2.6 million more in federal funding.

“There’s certainly a problem of equity,” Roy said.

The Grand Prix isn’t alone in generating publicity for Montreal, he said. The Rogers Cup also has millions of viewers.

“Every single event in the study gets international coverage,” he said.

Roy isn’t calling for the Grand Prix to get less money. Instead, he wants the federal government to increase subsidies for other festivals to a similar level.

Just for Laughs exec hasn’t been fired, but ‘the truth will come out’: source

A La Presse report of the firing of Just for Laughs COO Bruce Hills is “100 per cent inaccurate,” according to a close industry source.

“The truth will come out shortly, when the deal between ICM/Howie Mandel and Bell/Evenko is finalized and that will be soon,” another source added.

The deal in question pertains to Bell/Evenko buying 51 per cent of Just for Laughs from current owners ICM Partners and Howie Mandel, who had, in turn, purchased the company in March from festival founder Gilbert Rozon.

Evidently, the raison d’être for the sale from ICM/Mandel to Bell/Evenko is that majority local ownership of the festival is imperative in order that JFL continue to receive annual government grants of $10 million.

The price for the Bell/Evenko purchase is said to be $33 million. It was just two months ago when it was announced that Canadian cut-up Howie Mandel had hooked up with U.S. entertainment juggernaut ICM partners to purchase the Just for Laughs Group for a price estimated to be $65 million.

This flurry of sales activity came about when JFL founder and owner Gilbert Rozon decided to unload his entire stake in the company after allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him surfaced last October.

Last week, a Superior Court judge authorized a class-action lawsuit against Rozon, filed by a group of more than 20 women — calling themselves “Les Courageuses” — who allege they were sexually assaulted or harassed by him between 1982 and 2016.

Just for Laughs will not yet comment on any of the rampant speculation regarding changes.

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