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Opposition slams Marois for seeking 'prudence' from corruption inquiry

05/02/2013 09:30 EDT | Updated 07/02/2013 05:12 EDT
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois set off a political firestorm today, when she issued a call for "prudence" by the Charbonneau commission into corruption in the province's construction industry.

"The commission must do its work and must do it with prudence," said Marois as she strode down the corridor of the national assembly.

Her comment came shortly after a similar warning from the deputy premier, François Gendron, the day after an inquiry witness testified a former PQ transport minister, Guy Chevrette, had interfered in the awarding of a municipal roadwork contract.

"It bothers me when one is not careful," Gendron said."I went into politics to fight that kind of thing. I think I'm a guy with integrity, yet there they go, all out, painting everyone with the same brush."

Marois 'bullying the commission,' Duchesneau says

The reaction from the political opposition was swift and furious.

CAQ MNA Jacques Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief and corruption investigator, accused Marois and her government of trying to bully the commission.

"The issue is getting involved in a judicial process," Duchesneau said. "We've seen cabinet ministers who had to resign because they made a private phone call to a judge… Sometimes we can disagree, but you keep that to yourself, especially when you are premier of this province."

Liberal justice critic Gilles Ouimet demanded to know why Marois wasn't urging the same caution when it was the Liberals being accused of corruption.

"It just happens the morning after some previous PQ ministers were involved," he said.

"It's a matter for the commission to determine how it's going to continue its business, its mandate. The premier should never interfere in that or even leave the impression that the premier is interfering."

Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir called Marois and Gendron's comments "misplaced."

"I think there will be a lot of pressure increasing on the PQ government because they pretend they want to clean up the mess," Khadir said. "If they are sincere, they just have to show by accepting to pay back all the dirty money that the Liberals and PQ have obtained from the business sector to win their elections."

Don't jump to conclusions, PQ minister urges

Stung by the criticism, Marois did come out later in the day to reaffirm her confidence in the inquiry.

The minister responsible for democratic institutions, Bernard Drainville, urged Quebecers not to jump to conclusions before the inquiry has finished its work.

"There's nothing we can do to erase the mistakes of the past," said Drainville. "The past is the past. What we can do is take measures to bring back integrity, honesty, fight corruption, fight collusion. And this is what we've been doing since September."

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