Former staffers contradict Bellemare's testimony
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, September 13, 2010 11:53AM EDT
QUEBEC – The press secretary and chief of staff for former justice minister Marc Bellemare said Monday that they were never informed of any pressure that Liberal fundraisers may have applied concerning the nomination of judges.
Bellemare said during his exhaustive testimony that he believed Jacques Tetrault was aware of the pressure he was under to name certain people as judges.
Testifying before the Bastarache Commision, Tetrault said Monday he learned through the media of Bellemare's allegations last April of being unduly influenced by Liberal fundraisers. He said he was shocked to learn of the allegations and surprised that the former minister never spoke of it with his political entourage.
Both Tetrault and former chief of staff Michel Gagnon said they first learned about the allegations of influence pedalling this spring from the media.
"If Bellemare told me that, I would have taken measures to protect him from the people who put pressure on him," said Tetrault, who described his boss as secretive.
Both Tetrault and Gagnon said Bellemare wasn't prepared for his role as justice minister, and spent a year managing crises.
Damaging to Bellemare's credibility was the testimony from Gagnon that Liberal fundraiser Franco Fava and accountant Charles Rondeau were involved in a meeting at the beginning of Bellemare's campaign to become mayor of Quebec City.
Bellemare testified that the two were not involved.
The commission presided by former judge Michel Bastarache on the nomination of judges started back up on Monday.
Later this week, the commission is also expected to hear from Louis Dionne, Bouchard's successor, and Violette Trepanier, director of recruiting and financing for the Liberal Party of Quebec since 2001.
Dionne is currently the director of criminal and penal prosecutions at the Quebec government. Bellemare noted during his testimony how shocked he was that he was not responsible for the naming of deputy ministers, specifically mentioning Dionne's nomination.
Other witnesses may testify this week, but it remains unclear whether or not Liberal fundraiser Franco Fava will be among them.
Bellemare triggered a political storm last spring, when he said he was pressured by Liberal bagmen during his spell as justice minister in 2003 and 2004 to name certain judges to the bench.
In his long-anticipated testimony, Bellemare said Charest told him to do whatever the party's financial backers wanted him to.
Bellemare alleged that Fava and accountant Charles Rondeau pushed for the appointments of Marc Bisson and Michel Simard to the Quebec court.
And Bellemare alleged that Charest was fine with the appointments.
With files from ctvmontreal.ca