Charest considers suing over corruption allegation
Published Thursday, August 9, 2012 2:04PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 9, 2012 6:40PM EDT
Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Thursday he would consider a lawsuit after a report suggested a police investigation into a construction official with alleged mob ties was discontinued after the official met Charest at a public event.
A report Wednesday by French-language Radio-Canada, suggested Charest chatted briefly with Eddy Brandone, a former treasurer of FTQ-Construction, during a public appearance in March 2009.
The report said provincial police cancelled a surveillance operation on the union official shortly after the meeting. Brandone was being tailed as part of an investigation into alleged fraud and illegal spending at the construction union.
While the report did not allege Charest interfered in the investigation, it cited anonymous sources suggesting police get cold feet when an operation gets too close to the government.
Sûreté du Québec said there was no political interference in their investigation and the order to pull the tail came from inside the force, but would not discuss the reason.
Charest told reporters on Thursday that he did not interfere with Sûreté du Québec’s investigation and said the timing of the Radio-Canada report was tantamount to a politically motivated smear job.
He said he would consider suing Radio-Canada over the report, or issuing a complaint with its ombudsman after the election.
"My conscience is clear this morning," Charest told reporters. "I don't think that's the case for the journalists, and those who are running Rad-Can, and made this decision”
Charest said he had no connection to Brandone, and did not recall meeting him on the day in question, although he does recall meeting him as far back as 1993.
“I remember him because every time he came up to me to say hello, he pointed out the fact that he was a union activist, which is, in our political party, rare,” Charest told reporters on Thursday.
Charest said he had no recollection of ever holding a meaningful conversation with Brandone.
The release of the report comes less than one month before Quebec elections a new provincial government. Corruption has been a key issue on the campaign and could play a factor in the Sept. 4 vote.
Radio-Canada reporters told CTV Montreal that the timing of the story had nothing to do with the election campaign. They said the story was ready for air and felt they would be open to criticism if they held the story until after the campaign.
Charest’s political opponents did not hesitate to use the allegations as ammunition on the campaign trail on Thursday. Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois said Charest had a duty to fully explain his connection to Brandone.
Both the Parti Québécois and the new Coalition for Quebec’s Future (CAQ) have made government transparency key election issues.
The CAQ has lured former Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau to run in the Quebec election. Duchesneau dominated headlines last fall when he leaked a scathing report about corruption in Quebec’s construction industry to media.