Patrice Bergeron – The Canadian Press
Quebec mayors donated nearly $100,000 to the electoral fund of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) between 2021 and 2023.
This is what a compilation obtained by The Canadian Press from a reliable source reveals, while the CAQ is mired in controversies over its financing methods.
In total, almost half of Quebec's mayors and prefects, or 503 out of 1138, have contributed to financing the CAQ since the last municipal elections in 2021.
In 2021, they paid $20,535 into the CAQ kitty, $40,155 in 2022 and $38,190 in 2023, so a total of $98,880. The compilation does not include donations from thousands of municipal councilors.
For comparison, the CAQ collected nearly $779,000 in individual donations in 2021, and $1.35 million in 2022, an election year in which citizens are authorized to contribute an additional $100 in addition to the maximum donation authorized per year of $100.
The most common donation made by mayors is $100, the maximum allowed per year.
The Canadian Press validated by random sampling the data collected by carrying out research on donors on the Élections Québec website.
Last week, François Legault assured that his party was not particularly targeting municipal elected officials in its financing strategies.
The Canadian Press, however, revealed last Tuesday that the CAQ MP Louis-Charles Thouin invited around ten mayors from his constituency of Rousseau to a cocktail to fill the electoral fund with $100, in exchange for which the elected officials could meet the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, on February 8 in Saint-Jacques.
Mr. Legault suggested that his party would revise its messages, but repeated that mayors did not have to pay the CAQ to meet with a minister.
“The file is closed,” he said in a press conference at the end of a two-day meeting of his caucus in Sherbrooke last Thursday.
MP Vincent Marissal, from Québec solidaire, asked the ethics commissioner to investigate Mr. Thouin, citing a “financing scheme” of the CAQ, which could dangle an interview with a minister in exchange for a $100 donation. According to the QS MP, this contravenes several articles of the code of ethics. The request is being processed.
In a Radio-Canada report broadcast in December, mayors of Abitibi expressed their discomfort and said they felt obliged to contribute to the CAQ to meet a minister and thus advance their issues.
The electoral law stipulates that the donor to a political party must certify that his “contribution is made from his own property, voluntarily, without compensation or consideration, and that he has not made nor will make subject to any reimbursement.”
The Canadian Press requested clarification from Élections Québec regarding the question of the contribution which must be paid without compensation.
“The spirit of the Electoral Law with regard to the fact that the contribution must be made “without compensation or consideration” is to prevent a party or candidate from finding itself in a situation where it would feel indebted to the contribution paid by a donor and to ensure that each donor acts voluntarily to pay his contribution, on his own initiative and from his own funds, without being pressured or promised by a third person,” said a spokesperson. word from Élections Québec in an email.
In his solicitation message, the CAQ deputy indicated, to justify his approach: “each deputy must, every year, raise funds for the next elections, however this year I have decided to propose to you a new formula.”
He said that he wanted to “combine business with pleasure” by inviting elected officials to a “private cocktail” at a cost of $100, 5 to 7 formula, in the presence of Ms. Guilbault.
“Geneviève and I will be delighted to welcome you and to be able to discuss with you on various subjects that concern you, including road and collective transport issues,” he wrote.
Recall that the Ministry of Transport and its minister are in constant contact with municipalities on issues of financing road infrastructure, public transport, road maintenance, new sections, safety, etc.
Meeting the minister can thus allow a municipal elected official to move a file forward, but an elected official who requests a meeting with a minister should not have to pay to obtain a meeting.
Two weeks ago, Radio-Canada revealed another controversy over the financing of the CAQ which affected the member for Chauveau, Sylvain Lévesque.
A citizen who wanted her MP to advance her file was offered to meet the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, in exchange for a contribution of $100 to the party fund.
The Ethics Commissioner of the National Assembly announced last week that she was undertaking an investigation into the case of Mr. Lévesque.