PQ, Liberal lawyers grill star witness at corruption inquiry
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012 7:58PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 21, 2012 8:17AM EDT
A surprising twist in the at the Charbonneau Commission into the construction industry in Quebec Wednesday, as star witness Jacques Duchesneau became the subject of a hostile examination by the Parti Quebecois.
The testimony from the former Montreal police chief over the past week has landed like a series of bombshells at the Charbonneau Commission, dropping the names of firms and individuals involved in questionable behaviour.
When the Parti Quebecois lawyer Estelle Tremblay began cross-examining Duchesneau Wednesday, it was widely believed the former head of Quebec's anti-collusion unit would be given an easy ride, assuming the target would be the Liberal Party of Quebec.
When it came to his investigation into the financing of political parties, the hunter became the hunted, explained Duchesneau.
"Did you ask permission before conducting that investigation into party financing?" Tremblay asked Duchesneau.
He replied with an adamant, "No."
Tremblay also suggested the former Montreal police chief shouldn't be considered a credible investigator.
"He improvised his role as an investigator, he compromised his credibility," said Tremblay, an attack in sharp contrast with the PQ's praise of Duchesneau and his work.
Liberals also on the attack
Lawyers representing the government and the construction industry also took the investigator to task over his findings.
The cross-examination grew so hostile that Justice France Charbonneau had to ask Denis Houle to calm down. The lawyer representing the Quebec Road Builders Association, Houle took offence with the fact that Duchesneau was dropping many names during his testimony.
Houle argued that Duchesneau's allegations weren't backed by evidence.
Awarded the Order of Canada, Duchesneau was fired as head of the province's permanent anti-corruption unit in October 2011. During testimony last week, Duchesneau revealed that he had leaked an 88-page report his unit had compiled because of fear that the ruling Liberals would sit on it.
Throughout his testimony, he was maintained the same defence of his words: "My report is a picture of the industry as it stood 18 months ago, gathered from sources that wish to remain anonymous."
The lawyer representing the Government of Quebec also asked a number of pointed questions, demanding to know if Duchesneau's damning allegations against Transport Quebec were based on fact or "assumptions."
Calling for civility, Charbonneau was herself not always impressed by Duchesneau's lack of specifics, often calling for more proof from the star witness.
"I try not to make any assumptions," said Martin Morin, an investigator who testified alongside Duchesneau.
"That's what you say," he responded to a statement from the lawyer about his testimony. "Give me time to investigate and I'll tell you if it was an assumption or not."
The Charbonneau Commission began a summer-long recess Wednesday, and will resume in September.