PQ accuses Liberals of favouritism
MONTREAL—The Parti Quebecois is promising to end the influence of money in politics while lobbing serious corruption allegations at the governing Liberal Party.
According to PQ MNA Bernard Drainville, a questionable real estate deal involving a piece of land on the south shore could link the Liberals with the controversial Catania Construction company.
He claims that at least $40,000 in political contributions from Catania was rewarded with the $600,000 sale of land by the Riverside School Board to the company. The sale of the land, ostensibly to build a community centre, was announced by Liberal MNA Fatima Houda-Pepin in 2008.
According to Drainville, the deal was approved without public tender by then Education Minister Michelle Courchesne.
At the time of the announcement, the Liberals also pledged $3.8 million in public funds to support the project. The community centre was never built. Instead, the company re-sold the land to a condo developer for about $1.5 million.
The PQ alleged that Catania made $1 million in profit.
“It is not normal again that the Liberal interest is more important than the public interest. It is not normal that Catania is making $1 million in less than a year, while our school boards are crying for money and the south shore community is asking for a new community centre,” said PQ MNA Bernard Drainville.
“Why is it yet again that the friends of the Liberal Party are cashing in on public money while all these public needs that need to be fulfilled.”
According to Drainville, the PQ would limit political contributions to $100, with more public funding to make up for the shortfall. The move would be revenue-neutral for the government, as the new spending would be made up for with an elimination to the contribution tax credit.
The president of the company, Paolo Catania, was arrested in May as part of raids by Quebec’s permanent anti-corruption unit. According to Drainville, the Liberals should not have allowed the resale of the land; he said it should have been returned for public use.
The allegations came at a critical time, just two weeks into this election campaign. The Liberals responded to the allegations on Monday afternoon, calling them false. The party said that there was a call for tenders, but Catania’s promise to build a community centre put the company’s offer at the top of the pile.
Monday’s announcement was not the first time Jean Charest’s government was accused of favoritism. Similar allegations were made in a damning report by Jacques Duchesneau, the former head of anti-corruption squad.
All of those allegations are before a public inquiry being led by Justice France Charbonneau. The findings from that commission will be released about two weeks after Quebecers vote-in a new government.