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Joëlle Boutin offered “privileged access” to Pierre Fitzgibbon in 2020

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press MP Joëlle Boutin announcing her resignation at a press briefing on July 19

Patrice Bergeron – The Canadian Press and Thomas Laberge – The Canadian Press in Quebec

February 1, 2024

  • Quebec

The former CAQ MP for Jean-Talon, Joëlle Boutin, has already promised “privileged access” to Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon to business people and entrepreneurs in 2020.

“You will have the opportunity to have privileged access to the minister and to discuss your concerns and economic recovery directly with him,” reads a screenshot obtained by La Canadian Press. This is an invitation written by the former MP in November 2020 on the Facebook group “Quebec Business Networking and Events”.

As the event was during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held virtually. “Once you register, I will send you a link with a document where you can also submit your questions, concerns and suggestions, which I can submit directly to them in advance. Your opinion matters to him! » she continues.

At the end of the message, the former elected official from Quebec specifies “that people who have already made their maximum contribution for the current financial year will be able to attend free of charge”.

The electoral law provides that each citizen can contribute a maximum of $100 to a political party, but they cannot do so to obtain a counterpart.

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Élections Québec has already expressed fears regarding potential exchanges of favors or conflicts of interest. “The presence of a minister at a fundraising activity, however, raises the risk that an exchange occurring within the framework of the activity could result in a decision having the appearance of constituting an advantage provided in exchange for a contribution,” said writes the spokesperson for Élections Québec.

Participation in a fundraising activity does not in itself constitute a problem, he clarified, but “the question therefore touches on the issue of the integrity of political financing if, as a result of a fundraising activity, a minister made a decision that would constitute, ostensibly or actually, a benefit provided in exchange for a contribution.”

“Awkward wording”

Questioned by The Canadian Press on Thursday, the former elected official recognized “clumsy wording” for the terms “privileged access”. “It was inappropriate,” she said.

“I’ve always been super “by the book,” adds Ms. Boutin.

She admits that inviting a minister to a fundraising event attracts more people. “But there is never any quid pro quo,” she assures us.

“The format was a kind of webinar where Pierre Fitzgibbon was talking about economic recovery from the pandemic and people were asking questions,” she said, adding that it was not lobbyism.

According to her, the financing of political parties creates unease among both elected officials and the population. “I can’t say it was my favorite part. Asking people for money, no matter who it was. »

A sixth CAQ deputy

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) has been at the center of controversy for two weeks for its financing practices. After Louis-Charles Thouin, Sylvain Lévesque, François Jacques, Gilles Bélanger, Yves Montigny, it is now Kariane Bourassa, the MP for Charlevoix–Côte-de-Beaupré, who is in trouble for her fundraising.

Mayors were thus able to meet the Minister of Municipal Affairs in exchange for a contribution of $100.

Two CAQ deputies, Louis-Charles Thouin and Sylvain Lévesque, are the subject of an investigation by the Ethics Commissioner of the National Assembly and two other requests for investigation have been filed by Quebec in solidarity for deputies Gilles Bélanger and Yves Montigny.

In a screenshot obtained by The Canadian Press, Ms. Bourassa invites donors to meet the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, on November 23, to “discuss issues that concern you,” we read, in exchange for 'a $100 donation to the party fund.

Several mayors took part in the activity, which was held in a hotel in Baie-Saint-Paul.

In photos, we see in particular the mayors of Baie-Saint-Paul, Michaël Pilote, of La Malbaie, Michel Couturier, of L'Isle-aux-Coudres, Christyan Dufour, of Saint-Siméon, Sylvain Tremblay, from Saint-Irénée, Odile Comeau, from Saint-Hilarion, Patrick Lavoie, from Baie-Sainte-Catherine, Donald Kenny, from Clermont, Luc Cauchon, and des Éboulements, Pierre Tremblay, also prefect of the MRC.

Ms. Comeau, as well as Messrs. Pilote, Couturier, Kenny, Lavoie, Cauchon, Sylvain Tremblay and Pierre Tremblay, all contributed $100 to the CAQ.

It was an employee of the National Assembly, Maxime Tremblay, who was the contact person to obtain “more information” regarding this fundraising activity.

Constituency employees are not supposed to carry out partisan work during working hours, as already recalled by Ethics Commissioner Ariane Mignolet, who said she was “highly concerned” by the use of public funds for partisan purposes by the CAQ in 2022.

The Canadian Press requested an interview with Ms. Bourassa, but the chief whip's office refused.

Kariane Bourassa instead issued a written statement, transmitted in a text message from the director of communications in the office of the chief government whip, Marc Danis. “The invitations for this fundraising activity were made by my committee of activists, with personal emails,” she assured. All rules were respected. I will not allow anyone to question my integrity! »

She continued by emphasizing that “at the CAQ, integrity is a fundamental value, a non-negotiable value. This is also why the Prime Minister announced this morning that our party was going to give up private financing until the implementation of new rules.

The Canadian Press sent a list of questions to the spokesperson for the chief whip, in particular to find out how many mayors participated in the activity precisely, who they are, and how many contributions were received during this activity.

Let us specify that in the case of Sylvain Lévesque, the Ethics Commissioner is investigating the use by a staff member of the Chauveau constituency office, in the exercise of his duties, of computer equipment and the official email address provided by the National Assembly to promote the CAQ's partisan fundraising activities.

In the case of Mr. Tremblay, however, he provided his personal address.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116