04/07/2016 10:52 EDT | Updated 04/08/2017 05:12 EDT

Sam Hamad, Quebec Treasury Board President, Stepping Down Amid Ethics Allegations

Sam Hamad will continue to sit as a Liberal member of the legislature.

Quebec's treasury board president quit cabinet on Thursday amid allegations he helped a horticultural company that was trying to get a government grant.

Sam Hamad will continue to sit as a Liberal member of the legislature as he fights to clear his name.

"I hoped the situation would not become a distraction for the government and the premier," Hamad said in a statement he read to reporters.

Sam Hamad tells reporters he will fight the accusations against him, after stepping down from cabinet, Thursday, April 7, 2016 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Photo: Jacques Boissinot/CP)

"I must admit, I became one. That's why today I've agreed with the premier to sit as the representative of Louis-Hebert without any other privilege."

Allegations of ties to ex-cabinet minister faces charges

Hamad recently asked the province's ethics commissioner to look into the allegations contained in a Radio-Canada report that said he had ties with Marc-Yvan Cote.

The report suggested he may have passed along strategic information to help Premier Tech, which had Cote on its board and was trying to get a government grant.

Cote is a former Quebec Liberal cabinet who is facing fraud-related charges in a separate scheme that allegedly saw political financing and gifts exchanged for lucrative government contracts.

Hamad, 57, has denied any wrongdoing and suggested he should be entitled to the same presumption of innocence afforded to others.

He created a further stir after leaving abruptly for Florida last Saturday, the day he temporarily resigned his post.

'Unjustly targeted'

Hamad said he was angry after the report aired and that emotion fuelled his decision to head south as the storm around him grew.

"When one feels unjustly targeted, when one's reputation and integrity are attacked, you want to take a certain distance," he said. "I was angry, and anger is poor counsel. I can understand that it might have outraged the public, but I assure you that was not my intention."

When Hamad gave up his cabinet post temporarily, ke kept the privileges that came with it -- namely a bodyguard, a limousine and a premium.

Premier defends Hamad

On Thursday, the second anniversary of the Liberals winning power, Premier Philippe Couillard defended Hamad and said he showed courage in resigning.

On Wednesday, Couillard said his minister could have been "more prudent, certainly when it comes to matters of lobbyism."

Two senior ministers will split Hamad's former duties -- Finance Minister Carlos Leitao and Labour Minister Francois Blais.

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