PQ tables Bill 1 to tackle corruption
Published Thursday, November 1, 2012 1:59PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, November 1, 2012 8:00PM EDT
MONTREAL—Standing in front of Rene Levesque’s statue on the lawn of the National Assembly, 25 years after death of the founder of the Parti Quebecois, Pauline Marois vowed to end corruption in Quebec.
"We will continue your work Mr. Levesque. We will clean up the system, we will break corruption," said Marois, after laying a wreath at the feet of the diminutive Levesque and marking a moment of silence.
Under Bill 1, the first piece of legislation from the PQ government, companies will be subjected to increased scrutiny before they are allowed to vie for the $25-billion annually in public contracts. Making use of Levesque’s legacy, Marois said the legislation was inspired by the late leader.
The bill entrusts Quebec’s securities regulator, the AMF, with screening the integrity of companies before they can enter a bid. Treasury Board President Stephane Bedard says the financial markets watchdog is best equipped to audit firms and hand out certificates to those in good standing.
Bedard says they could refuse or revoke that status if the public trust could be affected by a company's lack of integrity.
The in-depth screening would include a look at partners, directors, officers and anyone who directly or indirectly controls the company under the law.
Quebec's anti-corruption unit would also keep tabs on companies to ensure they continue to comply with the rules.
Marois said during her inaugural speech on Wednesday that her first weeks in office will be dedicated to fighting corruption, in the wake of political scandals that have rocked the province.
She said she will not wait for an ongoing inquiry to offer its conclusions and will act immediately on the anti-corruption front.
The PQ has said it hopes to pass Bill 1 before Christmas.
“Based on what we see, what we hear and what we’ve learned every day since the Commission started its work, we just couldn’t wait,” said Public Security Minister Stephane Bergeron, referring to the televised anti-corruption commission that has become a ratings hit on daytime television.
The new government has pinned its hopes to the popular anti-corruption cause.
Some in the opposition have called the bill weak.
“This bill is incomplete,” said Liberal labour critic Guy Ouellette, holding up a copy of the proposed legislation covered with pen marks. “As you can see in my personal copy, we have a number of comments, amendments and propositions for almost every article.”
The Liberals say that the bill is too vague and subjective, and want clear guidelines on how the AMF will operate under the law.
Jacques Duchesneau, the justice critic for the second opposition Coalition Avenir Quebec, called the proposal a “stepping stone to something better.”
The PQ promises a series of measures in the coming weeks, and is downplaying the divisive identity-and-independence issues that dominated the recent election.
With the CAQ saying that it will not reject the PQ’s inaugural speech on Wednesday, the PQ should survive its first confidence vote.
—with files from The Canadian Press.