QUEBEC – The Legault government defended its ethical record Wednesday, saying it is absurd to think a mayor can get a bridge or highway extension simply by buying a $100 ticket to a party fundraiser.
But if opposition parties want to reform Quebec’s electoral financing law, which imposes a $100 limit on an individual’s political contribution and includes massive state funding for political parties based on their electoral performance, they are open to Discuss the change.
With a fifth MNA named for allegedly selling access to a cabinet minister, the Coalition Avenir Québec government sent two senior ministers to meet the press: Education Minister Bernard Drainville, who in his past life was Parti Québécois minister for democratic institutions, and Jean-François Roberge, who now holds the title.
“We must stop this crazy speech, which basically says you can buy a Quebec minister with a $100 donation,” Drainville told reporters in the lobby of the legislature. “This is crazy. This is ridiculous. How can you believe that someone who attends a funding event will leave the event with a bridge, a commitment, or a grant?
“This is not the way it works. Arguing that you can have ministers that can be bought for a $100 donation is crazy. “This undermines a system that has worked wonderfully for Quebec.”
Under current electoral law, political parties get more than half of their annual budget from the state based on the number of votes they get in an election.
They are also allowed to raise funds on their own, often organizing events to which they sell tickets. A person can donate $100 a year to a party for which they are issued tax receipts.
Drainville was the minister who reformed the system, which at one point allowed individuals and companies to donate up to $3,000 to a party. The 2011 Charbonneau commission exposed the system as corrupt.
But in the past two weeks, there have been accusations that CAQ MNAs have been promoting the presence of influential cabinet ministers at fundraising events as a way to drum up interest.
Two CAQ MPs, Sylvain Lévesque of Chauveau and Louis-Charles Thouin of Rousseau, are being investigated by the province’s ethics commissioner for allegedly suggesting to businessmen and mayors that it would be a good idea for them to buy tickets so they could meet with ministers. .
The names of three other MNAs, Yves Montigny (René-Lévesque), Gilles Bélanger (Orford) and François Jacques ((Mégantic), have also emerged, prompting opposition parties to say it is clear that the CAQ has a system to raise money through El mundo municipal.
On Wednesday, Quebec solidarity MP Vincent Marissal formally asked ethics commissioner Ariane Mignolet to investigate the cases of Montigny and Bélanger, in addition to the other two.
The government has denied the suggestion, accusing the other parties of defamation.
“In Quebec you don’t have to pay money to meet with either your MNA or a minister,” Drainville said. “If there is a perception problem, we must correct it.
Drainville admitted, however, that some of the invitations (and text messages) that national authorities have written encouraging people to attend fundraising cocktail parties need improvement, a line used by Prime Minister François Legault last week.
In his comments, Roberge dodged questions about what the ENMs were supposedly doing in trying to promote the presence of ministers. Instead, he turned the issue around and asked if the other parties want to change the law (from which they benefit) so that there is no more private political financing.
He noted that Quebec’s current system is considered a model in democratic countries around the world. He added that all political parties in the legislature voted in favor of the current rules.
“But if things change, if perceptions change, we need to maintain the trust of Quebecers,” Roberge told reporters. “If the opposition wants to reopen the discussion, if it is willing to end public financing, if everyone agrees, I am willing to have a discussion.”
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For the second day in a row, the allegations triggered a media search for comment from the MNAs in question. They all walked past the media on their way to the morning CAQ caucus without answering questions.
The Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, did stop.
“No one can buy me for $100,” Fitzgibbon said. “All the mayors have my phone number, all the CEOs, so it’s better for them to call me directly instead of going through a financing campaign.”