A couple whose daughter died in a car accident were invited to meet the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, at a fundraising cocktail last fall to discuss measures to improve road safety.
Elizabeth Rivera and her husband, Antoine Bittar, who are campaigning for tighter controls on drunk driving, were heard Thursday in a parliamentary committee debating a bill on road safety, to the National Assembly.
On this occasion, they recounted how the staff of the MP for Soulanges, Marilyne Picard, approached them by putting forward an opportunity to meet Ms. Guilbault during a political fundraising activity at the benefit of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).
“We bought tickets for $100 each to have two minutes with the minister,” Ms. Rivera said. I didn't agree. I tell you sincerely, I did not agree. I said to Antoine: “I don’t want to do that.” But we do everything together and he convinced me. »
Ms. Rivera left disappointed after their meeting with Ms. Guilbault, in a restaurant where the fundraising cocktail was held, last October 12. “I found it unacceptable that we were asked to pay $200 to meet the minister,” she said.
Since the end of January, the Ethics Commissioner of the National Assembly, Ariane Mignolet, has opened two investigations into similar cases involving the financing practices of two CAQ deputies. Faced with this controversy, Prime Minister François Legault announced last week that the CAQ was temporarily giving up collecting donations from voters and will only depend on state funding.
These new revelations aroused the indignation of the opposition parties, who successively denounced these practices in press briefings which followed the parliamentary committee, where Ms. Guilbault was herself present.
Liberal MP Monsef Derraji accused the CAQ of having hijacked the commitment of parents, whose daughter Jessica died after being struck down by a drunk motorist in 2017. “He There is no bereaved couple in Quebec who has to pay a cent to meet a minister, he said. It is using human distress to advance the CAQ electoral fund. »
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Quebec Solidaire MP Étienne Grandmont found it surreal that the CAQ had proceeded by inviting parents to a fundraising cocktail. “We are at an extremely high level of decisions that are completely filthy. »
Parti Québécois MP Pascal Bérubé invited the CAQ to apologize and reimburse the couple. “It’s starting to look like a system. »
None of the three parties have indicated whether a request for a new investigation will be made for this funding cocktail.
Ms. Guilbault in turn appeared before journalists to defend her integrity and that of Ms. Picard. “In no case did my colleague Marilyne want to do anything wrong or make anyone uncomfortable,” she maintained.
The minister repeated, as the government has done in all previous cases, that ministers were accessible without political contribution. She stated that she had not received a meeting request from the two parents before seeing them for the first time at the cocktail in Soulanges.
Ms. Picard, who met the Bittar-Rivera couple last June at their request, explained that one of her “collaborators” then informed them of the fundraising activity. “It was an error in judgment and I sincerely apologize,” she wrote on social media.
Mr. Derraji affirmed that he will propose an amendment to Ms. Guilbault's bill based on the proposal of the parents, who are calling for the suspension of the driving license for one week of all drivers found with an alcohol level of 50 mg/100 ml of blood while the current threshold is 80 mg.
Ms. Guilbault, however, affirmed Thursday that her road safety plan includes other measures. “I don’t have that,” she said.