Old Port of Montreal CEO's job abolished amid corruption allegations



Claude Benoit — The Old Port of Montreal Corporation boss — lambasted by Parliament for mismanagement, lavish and questionable spending, including a now infamous South Seas holiday trip partly on the taxpayers' dime — is leaving her government job Feb. 28.

Benoit's position is also being abolished, the government announced Wednesday.

The moves were unveiled by the Canada Lands Company, a Crown corporation taking over Old Port of Montreal operations this year.

Canada Lands spokesman Manon Lapensee refused to say if Benoit is getting a severance package or how much it will cost taxpayers to dump her. '

“That's confidential,” she said.

The moves follow a multi-part QMI Agency investigation in 2012 that exposed deep governance and management problems at the Old Port, including lavish restaurant spending, waste, mismanagement, abuse of power, nepotism, excessive turnover in the executive ranks, links to organized crime and possible fraud.

Benoit was found to have taken a South Seas holiday trip partly on the taxpayers' dime,
The investigation also revealed that Old Port signed a lease with a man facing child sexual abuse charges.

What's more, Old Port had a vice-president of finance who faked being a chartered accountant and signed financial statements tabled in Parliament — all because Old Port never did basic background checks.

In November, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose announced Old Port was being dissolved and its operations folded into the Canada Lands to strengthen its efficiency, governance and accountability.  The auditor general is conducting a special investigation into the Old Port at the government's request.
The House of Commons ethics committee — where Benoit was grilled, but denied mismanagement or financial wrongdoing — also condemned the Old Port boss for spending $10,000 in public money on her private holiday trip to Australia and New Zealand as an unjustifiable and unacceptable use of public money.

Canada Lands on Wednesday steered clear of all controversy surrounding Benoit.

''We appreciate Ms. Claude Benoit’s assistance and co-operation in these early days of the transition,” said Robert Howald, CEO of Canada Lands, in a statement.

“We thank Ms. Benoit for her efforts over the past 15 years in the successful development and operation of the Old Port of Montreal.''

Canada Lands launched an executive search for a new senior vice-president who will oversee both the Old Port tourism installations and its more traditional real estate operations in Quebec.

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