Quebec cabinet minister resigns amid accusations of criminal past, bullying
Published Thursday, November 29, 2012 2:22PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:59PM EST
Quebec’s environment minister has resigned from his post following weeks of controversy surrounding his alleged criminal past and accusations that he’s been abusing his position of power.
Daniel Breton’s resignation from the Parti Quebecois cabinet Thursday capped off weeks of pressure from opposition parties in the province’s National Assembly demanding Breton step down after allegations he had abused his role by bullying staff members of a provincial review board.
But the decisive action leading to his resignation appears to have been media reports Wednesday concerning Breton's personal history of evictions and criminal convictions.
According to newspaper reports, Breton has a string of criminal convictions dating to 1988 for defrauding the employment insurance system, and, as recently as 2007, was fined $400 by Revenue Quebec. Local media also reported that Breton was convicted in 1997 for driving without a license, and that he was evicted from his apartments in 2005 and 2009 for non-payment of rent.
That lead to Thursday's brief announcement by Breton, where he read a statement announcing he was resigning as cabinet minister.
"I know what it is to lose your job, to lose your apartment, to depend on charity," said Breton, before leaving the room and refusing to answer questions.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said, contrary to the reports, she did not know about Breton's past when he was named a minister.
Marois’ Parti Quebecois swept into power with a minority government during a provincial election last September.
The premier said that Breton had met with officials before being named a minister, told staff that he had several unpaid fines, and they ordered him to pay them. But Marois said that information did not reach her until late Wednesday. "You can't be a minister if you have unpaid fines," she said.
Marois then commented that finding anyone in government with a spotless past would be impossible.
"Ask anyone in the National Assembly, who hasn't had a driving infraction, who hasn't forgotten an incident. You have to act in good faith."
For weeks the opposition parties have been hounding the environment minister over alleged bullying.
There were several reports that Breton met four dozen environmental review board employees behind closed doors, demanded their personal cell phone numbers, and warned he would call them if he disagreed with their decisions.
A committee -- struck by opposition parties to investigate Breton’s actions -- was due to convene in January.
Despite resigning his post, Breton will remain a sitting member of the Quebec legislature for the Montreal riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint Jacques.
With files from CTV Montreal