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CAQ's Legault denies promising star candidate super powers

08/06/2012 11:51 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT
A claim by Coalition Avenir Québec's star candidate Jacques Duchesneau that he would have the power to choose key ministers in a CAQ cabinet left his leader, François Legault, scrambling to clarify who's in charge.

In a French-language radio interview with broadcaster Paul Arcand Monday morning, Duschesneau said Legault has promised to name him deputy premier — and that he'd be no ordinary deputy, but one mandated with the power to choose key cabinet ministers.

"I wouldn't be the kind of deputy premier that we've known over the past 30 years," the former Montreal police chief told Arcand. "In other words, an honorary one."

The former head of Quebec's anti-collusion squad, who Legault called his "Elliot Ness" in announcing his candidacy Sunday, said his role would be much larger than just ensuring the integrity of key government departments.

Ness was a U.S. federal agent famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Duchesneau said he'd be a kind of CAQ "super minister" with the power to name cabinet colleagues to the ministries of transport, natural resources, municipal affairs and public security.

'There will be only one boss,' Legault says

Duchesneau's claim drew a barrage of questions from reporters at the first opportunity of the day to question a ruffled-looking François Legault.

The CAQ leader said he has indeed promised Duchesneau's the deputy premier's job, but he denies that would come with extra powers to name key ministers.

"I told him that I will consult him to choose the four ministers, but the final decision will remain [the premier's]," Legault said. "I think that all people talking to journalists can sometimes be not very clear."

Legault said he would talk to his star candidate, and by Monday afternoon, Duchesneau had backed away from his earlier statement.

"I think Mr. Legault's message is very clear, and in any case, the law is clear on this point: It's the premier who names his cabinet," Duchesneau said in an interview on Radio-Canada.

"I wanted to take a short cut this morning and I learned that, now that I'm in politics, one can't take shortcuts to explain something quickly in an interview...Yes we will come to an understanding on the choice of ministers who are going to work with me, but the choice belongs to him."

"We knew from the get-go that we would be targets," he added, in an English interview on CBC Radio. "Everything that I say from now on, I know that I'm going to be scrutinized. But the essence of the message is still the same: I'm focusing on corruption."

Naming ministers the premier's job, says Charest

In Ste-Marie in the Chaudière-Appalaches region to announce his plan to improve academic performance, Charest was quick to take a jab at the CAQ's star candidate's pronouncement.

"If I understand correctly, Mr. Legault will do the financing of the party, and he'll do the Tweeter [sic] account," Charest quipped. "Jacques Duchesneau will run the rest of the government."

For his part, Charest said he would never give a minister any say in choosing a cabinet colleague.

"It's the prerogative of the premier," the Liberal leader said. "It has always been that way. I have never seen, anywhere, in Canada or elsewhere in the world, and certainly not in the history of Quebec, a situation like that."

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