POLITICS

Quebec union doesn't want wiretaps played at corruption inquiry

09/19/2013 04:57 EDT | Updated 11/19/2013 05:12 EST
MONTREAL - A powerful Quebec labour union is fighting to keep the province's corruption inquiry from hearing wiretaps recorded during an investigation into organized crime.

A lawyer for the Fonds de solidarite FTQ, the big union venture-capital fund, says the inquiry has no right to play those wiretaps.

The request is on behalf of two people including Michel Arsenault, who's not only the union president but also the president of the board of the investment fund.

They say the recordings are of private conversations and, while making their argument Thursday, cited the U.S. Edward Snowden case while discussing privacy concerns.

The recordings were made during the provincial police's Operation Diligence — which was examining organized crime's infiltration into the legitimate economy, with a special focus on the masonry industry. Investigators stumbled upon phone conversations between union leaders and the Fonds de solidarite.

No criminal charges have been laid against employees of the fund as a result of that investigation.

The FTQ lawyers have filed a motion arguing that the broadcast of surreptitious recordings violates the Article 193 of the Criminal Code, as well as sections 7 and 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The fund has more than $9 billion in net assets and is the largest of its kind in the country.

It would feel the biggest impact from a move, announced in the last federal budget, to phase out a tax credit for union-backed mutual funds. The Harper government argues that the credit leads to inefficient investment decisions at a cost of $140 million a year to the federal treasury.

The role of construction unions, and the FTQ fund, is expected to be a major focus of the Quebec corruption inquiry this fall.