QUEBEC - There were demands for the resignation Wednesday of a Quebec parliamentarian who once served in Premier Jean Charest's cabinet and now faces three criminal charges.
A pair of opposition parties said Tony Tomassi, who now sits as an Independent, should resign from the legislature.
The criminal charges, including fraud and breach of trust, were announced earlier this week by the provincial police. They were prompted by his alleged use of a credit card supplied by a private company that received government money.
It was one of several controversies swirling around Tomassi last year, when he was forced to quit his post as minister responsible for families. He was also accused of rampant cronyism in the public day-care system for which he was responsible.
"The honourable thing — if we can speak of honour in this case — is that he resign," said Parti Quebecois public security critic Stephane Bergeron.
"The presumption of innocence (in the law) is a cardinal virtue but there's another factor we have to consider, and that's the fact that parliamentarians must comport themselves in a way that brings honour to their role, to the mandate conferred by the public, and not tarnish the image of the institution."
He hinted that, unless Tomassi stepped down, the PQ might table a motion in the legislature aimed at forcing him to quit. The PQ has the support of Quebec solidaire, a left-leaning party with one seat in the legislature.
However, the province's other opposition party isn't going quite that far.
The Action democratique du Quebec says Tomassi should make a public appearance to explain himself to Quebecers. It also says he should be allowed to have his legal fees covered by the public, because the rules state he would have to reimburse them if he were found guilty.
But the ADQ was unsparing in attacking Charest's Liberal party.
ADQ Leader Gerald Deltell told reporters that the Tomassi case typified the governing party's "disgraceful" ties to illicit financial influences.
"The forces of money can influence Quebec politics. And that's unacceptable," Deltell said.
"Jean Charest runs Quebec as the Liberal leader — not as the leader of a state, as leader of the government, as premier. We need a premier leading the state — not the partisan head of a political party."
He noted that, for over a decade, Jean Charest drew a separate salary as Liberal leader independent from his pay as premier.
Charest has given up that $75,000-a-year stipend. But his party is being consistently attacked with accusations that it has broken fundraising laws and entertains a cozy financial relationship with controversial construction companies.
A recent provincial government report, leaked to the public, warned of ties between the construction industry, criminal groups like the Mafia, and political parties.