Daniel Breton resigns as Environment Minister
Published Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:49AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:51PM EST
MONTREAL--Daniel Breton has resigned as a Parti Quebecois cabinet minister following a scandal involving evictions and criminal convictions for driving. He will remain the sitting MNA for the Montreal riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint Jacques.
For weeks the opposition parties in the National Assembly have been demanding Breton step down after allegations he had abused his role as Environment Minister in order to bully staff members of the arms-length provincial environmental review board (BAPE).
But the decisive action appears to have been reports on Wednesday concerning Breton's personal history of evictions and criminal convictions.
According to newspaper reports Breton has a string of criminal convictions dating to 1988 for defrauding the unemployment insurance system, and as recently as 2007 was fined $400 by Revenue Quebec. La Presse also reported that Breton was convicted in 1997 for driving without a license.
Meanwhile TVA reported that Breton was evicted from his apartments in 2005 and 2009 for non-payment of rent. Photographs from his landlord show hundreds of empty bottles of wine left in the apartment Breton was forced to leave.
That lead to Thursday's brief announcement by Breton, where he read a statement announcing he was resigning as cabinet minister.
"I will remain an MNA for Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques," said Breton.
The MNA said he spent Wednesday evening helping out at a food bank and homeless shelter, and will continue to spend more time volunteering at charitable institutions.
"I know what it is to lose your job, to lose your apartment, to depend on charity," said Breton, before leaving the room and refusing to answer questions.
Premier Pauline Marois said Thursday that contrary to reports from Wednesday evening,she did not know about Breton's past when he was named a minister.
On Wednesday Parti Quebecois press secretary Shirley Bishop said she believed the premier knew about Breton's convictions for not paying his rent, but Marois said that was not the case.
"At that point we hadn't discussed it, and [Bishop] thought I knew," said Marois.
The premier said that Breton had met with officials before being named a minister, told staff that he had several unpaid fines, and they ordered him to pay them, but Marois said that information did not reach her until late Wednesday.
"You can't be a minister if you have unpaid fines," said Marois.
She then said that finding anyone in government with a spotless past would be impossible.
"Ask anyone in the National Assemby, who hasn't had a driving infraction, who hasn't forgotten an incident. You have to act in good faith."
For weeks the opposition parties have been hounding the environment minister over alleged bullying.
Because the Parti Quebecois only holds a minority hold over the National Assembly, the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec were able to create a special committee to investigate Breton's actions.
There were several reports that Breton met four dozen BAPE employees behind closed doors, demanded their personal cell phone numbers, and warned he would call them if he disagreed with their decisions.
That committee was due to examine Breton's actions in January.