MONTREAL - A current sitting Parti Quebecois cabinet minister's name unexpectedly came up as Quebec's corruption inquiry listened to wiretapped conversations Tuesday.
The inquiry heard about ties between the Mafia and Quebec's largest labour union, the FTQ.
During one of the conversations, the head of the FTQ's construction wing, Jocelyn Dupuis, was overheard saying he wanted to speak specifically with Elaine Zakaib, a current PQ minister, about getting funding for a project.
The company seeking the funding, the Mafia-linked firm Carboneutre, was trying to get $2 million from the FTQ's investment fund. Zakaib was a senior executive at the FTQ fund at the time.
In another conversation, Dupuis was overheard telling a now-jailed reputed mobster, Raynald Desjardins, about ramping up pressure to get a loan for Desjardins' Carboneutre site-decontamination firm in 2008.
Desjardins, now awaiting a murder trial, was overheard saying: "You really need to put pressure on the others." Dupuis replied: "I'll kick them in the butt, you can be sure of that."
In the end, the fund never invested in the project.
Asked by reporters in Quebec City about the dealings, Zakaib said no one ever forced the issue with her. She said the project was not deemed financially viable and was rejected.
"We never invested in that company, so there was no pressure at all," she told reporters.
Zakaib is currently the PQ minister responsible for industrial policy. She won her first provincial election in 2012 after spending two decades at the fund manager in a variety of roles.
The inquiry investigator presenting the wiretapped conversations stressed that FTQ managers mentioned in the conversations were not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Nicodemo Milano said those individuals were simply doing their jobs, getting information about the companies and the identities of the shareholders.
The inquiry also viewed a video showing the union executive sharing a kiss on the cheek with the reputed Mafioso — which Milano said was an indication of the closeness of their friendship.
The federal government recently killed a popular tax credit for labour-sponsored venture funds, including the Fonds de solidarite FTQ.
The fund has more than $9 billion in net assets and is the largest of its kind in the country.