Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

Organizing networking evenings, publicizing the presence of a chief of staff to encourage funding or even offering a citizen to pay to meet a minister are all strategies of financing having been used by CAQ deputies or by their political staff, as noted by Radio-Canada.

CAQ fundraising cocktails: “We encourage people to

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Many people want to meet elected officials when they visit a city or region. (Archive photo)

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The fundraising activities of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) raise ethical questions. While the presence of ministers in these evenings is not prohibited, the Director General of Elections (DGE) mentions that their presence “must not constitute an advantage provided in exchange for a contribution.”

Radio-Canada has, however, noted that certain elected officials and members of political staff sometimes suggest that donors could benefit from an advantage in exchange for their donation.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">A citizen from the riding of Chauveau, who wanted her local MP to present her case to the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, had quite a surprise when she was instead offered to donate $100 to a fundraising cocktail to be able to meet her -even Minister Girard.

The citizen, who requested anonymity so as not to harm the progress of her case, wanted the MP de Chauveau, Sylvain Lévesque, can help him advance his file to the minister.

After a few reminders from him, an employee of the Chauveau MP's office then replied to him, four months later, that Minister Girard was passing through his constituency. However, she would have to pay to meet him.

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It's a fundraising activity, but it could be a great opportunity to chat to him. Let me know if you want me to reserve a place for you, adds MP Sylvain Lévesque's employee in his message of which we have obtained a copy.

While this is not outright illegal, it obviously violates the spirit of the law which indicates that contributions to political parties must be voluntary. And there, it is not voluntary, it is under duress. We find ourselves monetizing access to ministers and it is absolutely shocking.

A quote from André Noël, former journalist

The x27;ex-journalist André Noël, who was an investigator at the Commission of Inquiry into the Granting and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry, also known as the Charbonneau Commission, believes that this is “the kind of stratagem that we exposed to the Charbonneau commission.”

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André Noël specifies that it is often business people who attend activities such as fundraising cocktails.

The citizen refused to pay to meet the minister. Nearly a year after her initial request, she has still not obtained other opportunities to meet with Minister Girard.

Radio-Canada contacted the office of MP Sylvain Lévesque and it was rather the communications director of the chief government whip who responded by email.

In a short written response, Marc Danis specifies that the decision to attend a fundraising cocktail is up to each person. Under no circumstances do we ask citizens to participate in an event to be able to meet an elected official.

However, in this specific case it is precisely what the employee in the office of Sylvain Lévesque, MP for Chauveau, did.

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Some fundraising cocktails are very busy. like this one which took place in Minister Fitzgibbon's constituency in 2020. (File photo) Commissioner of Ethics and Professional Conduct specify that a member of political staff cannot use his title or his functions as a member of staff while carrying out partisan activities.

It is also indicated that political personnel cannot use confidential information obtained in the exercise of their functions to promote their political training; solicit political contributions.

Members of the Coalition Avenir Québec invite citizens to what they call networking evenings with ministers, but in fact, these are fundraising activities, because participants must make a donation to the Coalition Avenir Québec . This is an opportunity to come and network with ministers.

By email, the Chief Electoral Officer emphasizes that the presence of ministers at these evenings is not prohibited, but that the presence of a minister at a fundraising activity nevertheless raises the risk that an exchange taking place within the framework of the activity may result in a decision having the appearance of constituting an advantage provided in exchange for a contribution.

The Electoral Act provides that no advantage or consideration cannot be offered to a voter in exchange for a contribution.

On the website of the Linguistic Showcase of the Office québécois de la langue française, the definition of networking is this: The act of establishing and maintaining a network of relationships that could potentially be useful on a professional level. /p>

For André Noël, the simple fact of using the word network means that the participants could benefit from this meeting.

It looks good, we just network people, but to network people, what we find ourselves doing is that on the one hand, we are trading access to ministers, possibly also to MPs, and we find ourselves encouraging people to do illegal lobbying, he points out.

When it comes to decisions public contracts and the awarding of public contracts, we are not in business development because the State does not do business, adds Me Martine Valois, professor of law at the University of Montreal, who also been a member of the committee monitoring the recommendations of the Charbonneau commission.

The purpose of this committee was to study the follow-up carried out by the Government of Quebec on the recommendations and to submit a report to state the extent or non-existence of the implementation of these recommendations.

This is where it is problematic. We cannot talk about networking or business development when there is the presence of a minister, a member of the National Assembly or a person who could make a decision that would have been influenced during networking meetings, continues Ms. Valois, specifying that the awarding of public contracts is governed by laws and regulations.

The member for Marie-Victorin, Shirley Dorismond, organized a networking evening on October 12. In addition to the presence of Minister Jean Boulet, it also highlighted that of Michel Philibert, chief of staff of the Minister for the Economy.

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The MP for Marie-Victorin, Shirley Dorismond, is one of the MPs who organized an evening networking.

As mentioned previously, the guidelines concerning the partisan activities of the Ethics Commissioner specify that a member of political staff cannot do use of one's title or functions as a staff member while carrying out partisan activities. However, Shirley Dorismond presents him in the invitation as being from the Economy Cabinet.

We wonder if we have learned the lesson given by the Charbonneau commission. She had described these cocktails as a market of influence where decisions concerning public contracts are openly negotiated, adds Me Valois

On May 5, 2023, Deputy Government House Leader and Member of Parliament for Chapleau, Mathieu Lévesque, organized a fundraising cocktail with Minister Fitzgibbon. In the invitation, the CAQ specifies that this will be an opportunity to discuss and discuss economic subjects.

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MP Mathieu Lévesque and the Coalition Avenir Québec presented this fundraising activity in March 2023 as “an opportunity to address economic topics”. /p>

We find ourselves not only violating the electoral law, but also the law on lobbying because the implicit message is that you do not need to register with the lobbyist register. You can come and meet the minister directly if you pay, and that way, your name is not anywhere, explains André Noël, specifying that it is often business people who attend these activities.

It seems to be at the moment, by the current government, a repetition of what is happening happened during the period when the Liberal Party of Quebec was in power.

A quote from Me Martine Valois

Radio-Canada noted that during a fundraising cocktail organized last November in Rouyn-Noranda with the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, almost all of the donations came from business people in the sector.

At the end of the afternoon, just before the fundraising cocktail, the Member of Parliament for Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscamingue, Daniel Bernard, and Minister Fitzgibbon visited the offices of Groupe Moreau, a construction company with more than 1,000 employees. employees. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is a 25% shareholder.

Of the sixty donors who donated $100 during the cocktail fundraising organized that same evening, we identified 17 Moreau employees. Employees contacted by Radio-Canada assure that it was a personal donation.

I find this absolutely astonishing. It’s obvious that the business people who meet Fitzgibbon aren’t for his beautiful eyes, it’s not because they find him friendly. It’s because they have the hope of a return, says André Noël.

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This photo comes from the LinkedIn account of Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon on his visit to Groupe Moreau in Rouyn-Noranda.

One of the Charbonneau commission's recommendations was to require that the contribution form used by political parties and provincial candidates include the name of the contributor's employer at the time of their contribution, but it was not retained by the different parties in power.

The recommendation to prohibit ministers and their staff from soliciting political contributions from providers and recipients of financial aid from their ministry has never been applied equally.

The Coalition Avenir Québec did not wish to grant us an interview. By email, the party's general director, Brigitte Legault, sent us a written statement which mentions that: 'The activities of the CAQ respect in all respects the laws and regulations of the DGEQ.

Ms. Legault also specifies that reports are provided to the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec for all fundraising activities.

We ensure that all of our activities are aimed at a very wide range of people, from a multitude of backgrounds. Fundraising cocktails represent one opportunity among other people for CAQ activists and others to meet MPs, ministers and members of political cabinets. However, we believe that they do not have to attend a fundraising cocktail just for the purpose of being able to meet an elected official, adds Brigitte Legault in her email.

What is difficult to determine, according to Me Martine Valois, is whether business leaders really get something in return for their donation. The dissent of Commissioner Renaud Lachance, when tabling the Charbonneau commission report, was precisely linked to this impossibility of demonstrating this link, according to him. When the report was released, Prime Minister François Legault sided with the opinion of Commissioner Charbonneau.

It's not easy to demonstrate, but we just have to ask ourselves the question: why did construction firms and then engineering firms give millions of dollars to politicians during these years? Was it only because they supported the cause, the political party? I don't think so, François Legault expressed during a press briefing on November 24, 2015, while he was in opposition.

Élections Québec informed us that: In the event that the legislator considers this subject, Élections Québec is ready to collaborate with parliamentarians in order to clarify the application of the rules regarding political financing or 'update the provisions of the Electoral Act in this area.

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