Groupe AXOR Inc. acknowledged a senior executive, who is no longer employed with the company, asked some employees and their families to make donations totalling $66,237.60, while offering to reimburse them for the contributions.
A similar scheme happened at Axor Experts-Conseils Inc., totalling $49,721 in donations.
Of that money, $67,418 went to the Liberals, and $48,540 to the Conservatives.
In both cases, the companies reimbursed donors through personal expense claims, and in the case of Axor Experts-Conseils Inc., also through bonuses and other benefits.
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Because of those reimbursements, the companies acknowledged to an elections watchdog that what they made amounts to corporate donations, which are not allowed in Canada.
Both Montreal-based companies agreed to repay the improper donations, a fine equal to three times the donations and a portion of the investigative costs for the commissioner of Canada elections, who enforces national electoral laws.
As part of agreements struck with commissioner Yves Cote, Groupe AXOR ended up paying $248,712 and Axor Experts-Conseils Inc. paid $199,163, with the money going into federal coffers.
The voluntary agreements mean the companies accept responsibility and commit to pay the fines and take other measures, but do not admit guilt under criminal law.
In a statement Thursday, Cote said this was the first time his office had used its new power to levy monetary fines on top of getting the donations returned.
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The new powers are the result of changes made to Canada’s electoral laws in 2018.
“To have the ability to impose real consequences as part of these agreements will allow us much greater flexibility and will be extremely useful going forward. Canadians should expect to see us make full use of this new tool from this point on,” Cote said.
The companies have undertaken changes to their internal procedures to ensure compliance with election laws, the agreements say.
The commissioner also said there was no evidence the two political parties knew the donations were illegal. The Liberals and Conservatives have returned all the money.