Joined: 02 Mar 2009
|Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2016 7:40 am Post subject: Quebec liberal cabinet minister forced to quit over past
|( I don't think I can recall a time since the sponsorship scandal that liberal corruption was so alive and well in Canada , from questionable fundraisers and allegations of influence peddling to things like this in quebec , it goes on and on , the librano's are back )
Charest era still haunts Couillard as cabinet minister leaves over 2012 allegations
Category: Canada News Published Thursday, April 7, 2016 National Post
MONTREAL — Thursday was the second anniversary of Philippe Couillard’s election as Quebec Premier, in theory a time for him to highlight plans for the rest of his mandate and take a bow for whipping the province’s finances into shape.
Instead, Couillard found himself cutting loose a senior cabinet minister, Sam Hamad, all the while appearing bewildered that alleged misdeeds during the previous Liberal government’s time in office continue to drag his team down.
Couillard was clearly mistaken if he thought his April 7, 2014 majority victory, less than two years after the scandal-ridden Jean Charest Liberals were voted out, signalled that all was forgiven. The controversy that forced Hamad’s resignation as Treasury Board president Thursday has shown that few people in Quebec are inclined to give the Liberals the benefit of the doubt on questions of ethics.
The Radio-Canada investigative program Enquête reported last week on emails suggesting that in 2012, when he was minister of economic development under Charest, Hamad fed confidential cabinet information to Marc-Yvan Côté.
At the time, Côté was a Liberal organizer who sat on the board of a company seeking government subsidies. He was not registered as a lobbyist, and in the emails he referred to Hamad as his “friend.” The firm, Premier Tech Ltd., received $19 million in provincial aid in 2012, and the Radio-Canada report noted that company executives, managers and their family members donated $20,000 to the Liberals from 2008 to 2012.
Côté had been banished by the federal Liberals in 2005 after telling the Gomery inquiry that he distributed a briefcase full of cash to candidates in the 1997 election, but the provincial Liberals maintained ties. Last month, Quebec anti-corruption police arrested him, along with Charest’s former deputy premier, Nathalie Normandeau, on charges including fraud and breach of trust.
Hamad, first elected in 2003 to represent a Quebec City riding, has been a loyal soldier and successful fundraiser, and Couillard was initially reluctant to drop him from cabinet.
Last Saturday, Couillard told reporters Hamad had temporarily relinquished his responsibilities — but not his ministerial perks — while the National Assembly’s ethics commissioner investigated. He praised Hamad’s courage and integrity.
When news broke this week that Hamad had decamped to his Florida condo “to refuel,” complete with a front-page photo of him in Tuesday’s Journal de Montréal heading to the golf course, it cemented the image of an out-of-touch politician. And it was apparently the final straw for Couillard, who on Wednesday told the National Assembly that Hamad should have been more careful in verifying whether Côté was registered as a lobbyist before meeting him to discuss Premier Tech.
Back in Quebec City Thursday to announce that he would be sitting as a simple MNA, Hamad insisted that he had done nothing wrong but that he was resigning as minister because he had become a “distraction.” He said his escape to Florida was a mistake, prompted by the anger he felt over the accusations against him. “I can understand that it could have caused indignation,” he said.
In response to the opposition’s repeated charge that the Liberals are fuelled by dirty money, Couillard insisted that times have changed. There was a time, he said, when both main parties required ministers to drum up substantial sums in donations.
Now all ridings have the same targets, whether they are represented by a minister or not, Couillard said. And changes to Quebec’s election law have dropped the maximum donation to $100, making it harder for individual donors to throw their weight around.
Couillard argued that Quebec is ahead of the game, having addressed a problem Ontario is only now grappling with. “In Ontario, the same questions are being asked about political financing practices, which seem to still be the same as the ones we had here for several years,” he told reporters. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged last week that members of her cabinet must meet fundraising quotas, which media reports have said are as high as $500,000.
Couillard expressed a desire Thursday to focus on the present and the future. But even if investigations of Hamad’s actions by the ethics commissioner, the auditor general and the chief returning officer come up empty, the Liberals still have Normandeau’s criminal trial awaiting them. The alleged misdeeds are sufficiently fresh, and enough of the Charest-era Liberals remain in government, that turning the page is going to prove harder than Couillard imagined.
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