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Fundraising allegations: Marois questions timing

By: The Canadian Press

 | Apr 01, 2014 - 4:07 PM |
PQ leader Pauline Marois, flanked by candidate Rejean Hebert, listens to a question a news conference in a health food store, Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Granby, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

PQ leader Pauline Marois, flanked by candidate Rejean Hebert, listens to a question a news conference in a health food store, Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Granby, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. - Pauline Marois says allegations her husband solicited $25,000 to fund her Parti Quebecois leadership bid smack of revenge and fear.

Marois was reacting again Tuesday to a Radio-Canada report that Claude Blanchet asked an engineering executive for the money in 2007.

"Why did he (the man) do this now if he knew this situation in the past?" Marois said in Drummondville.

"Why did he decide to denounce this situation now? Because we are in an election and he doesn't want the return of a Parti Quebecois government."

Marois said some people are afraid of having the PQ re-elected next Monday because "we are the best way to fight against collusion and corruption."

The engineering executive made the allegations in a sworn affidavit but, at his request, Radio-Canada did not release his name.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said the allegations raise questions about the PQ's integrity.

"I just underline each time I'm asked the question the fact that for the last two or three years apparently the PQ was without any stain," Couillard said.

"It's obviously not the case."

In the affidavit, the man says he gave Blanchet $25,000 in the form of various cheques up to $3,000, which at the time was the maximum individual contribution in the PQ leadership race.

The affidavit states the man's company gave him the cheques and that he in turn handed them over in an envelope to Blanchet because he "wanted to have special access to Madame Marois."

Marois insisted she, her husband and the PQ have always respected the law on the party financing.

Blanchet also denied in the Radio-Canada report that he solicited the $25,000.

Radio-Canada said the man told the French-language network of the CBC he has known Blanchet for 15 years.

It also said another engineering executive was asked for money by Blanchet ahead of the 2008 provincial election.

The man said he gave Blanchet cheques totalling $5,000 from employees of his firm.

Coalition Leader Francois Legault was willing Tuesday to give Marois and Blanchet the benefit of the doubt regarding the allegations.

While he called the allegations "very serious," Legault said he is ready to accept the couple's denials at face value.

Testimony at the Charbonneau Commission looking into corruption has indicated that engineering firms have been generous contributors to political parties.

For example, it was revealed that Dessau gave a total of $1 million to the two major parties between 1996 and 2011 — $600,000 to the Liberals and $400,000 to the PQ.

It's not the first time Blanchet's name has come up during the Quebec election campaign.

In the second televised leaders' debate last week, Marois was questioned about possible dealings between her husband and the province's largest labour federation.

The controversy revolves around a 2009 wiretap that was played recently at the corruption inquiry and that hints at an arrangement between Blanchet and the Quebec Federation of Labour.

The recording captures Michel Arsenault, who was then president of the labour federation, saying he was ready to enlist the aid of the PQ to help thwart a corruption probe and that the labour union had a "deal with Blanchet.'"

"The PQ won't touch this," Arsenault is heard telling another union boss. "I'll talk to Pauline."

Marois was in opposition at the time of the recording.

She told the televised debate what she has repeated over and over since the testimony: there was no deal.

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