'I don't know what he's talking about': House leader denies police union allegations
Published Monday, September 18, 2017 12:27PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 18, 2017 10:22PM EDT
Government House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier said he is considering his political future, despite denying ever being the target of a police investigation.
Fournier said Monday that he never discussed making zoning charges to a region in exchange for donations to the Liberal party.
His name was called into question Monday, months after the head of Montreal's police union said an investigation had been blocked because it concerned Liberal MNAs.
Francoeur made the accusations about two Liberal MNAs -- who he never named -- in April, saying that in 2012 the pair was involved in an influence peddling scheme in exchange for donations to the Liberal party.
Francoeur said that police knew about the fraud, and even had wiretaps of conversations, but said the investigation was blocked at the time because of political interference.
In May, the chief Crown prosecutor ordered the Sureté du Quebec to examine Francoeur's claims of political inference with a criminal investigation and prosecution, while pointing out Francoeur repeatedly talked to the press but never contacted her office.
Details of Francoeur's statement were kept under wraps until Monday when they appeared in the Journal de Montreal.
In his statement, Francoeur told the SQ that five sources had told him about the investigation that was supposedly blocked by a senior SQ officer, and that four of those sources had named former finance minister Raymond Bachand and Fournier as individuals who met with a prominent real estate promoter.
Both deny the allegations.
Appearing shaken up, Fournier said Francoeur’s claims are totally unfounded, but the perception is damaging and it has made him think about his political future.
“I don't know what he's talking about. But what he said, if it had happened in my life, I would remember. And it never happened. So, what can I say?” he said. “My first reaction is not to step down, but yes, I'm thinking about what's going to happen.”
Premier Philippe Couillard said that Francoeur has made a mistake. The premier said that a fundraising cocktail involving Fournier had occurred, but that Bachand was never there -- instead it was ex-MNA Claude Bechard.
Fournier also said that he never discussed making zoning charges in exchange for political donations.
PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee said Fournier should be suspended pending an investigation.
“He's owed the presumption of innocence, but the unwritten rule is that when a minister is subject to an inquiry or part of an inquiry, he should be suspended while waiting for the conclusion of the inquiry,” he said.
Quebec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir took a shot at corruption allegations that have followed the Liberal party.
“Mr. Couillard told us he wants to turn the page. How can he reconcile these two aspects? He has Jean-Marc Fournier, suspect number two of the scandalous corruption of the Charest era. So, Mr. Couillard can allow us to get rid of these problems by exerting a better judgment and sacking away Mr. Jean-Marc Fournier,” he said.
The SQ issued a statement Monday saying it is expanding its investigations into the allegations.