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Quebec housing minister 'abusively favoured' personal interests: ethics commissioner

Quebec Minister Responsible for Housing France-Elaine Duranceau responds to the Opposition during question period, Thursday, September 28, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot Quebec Minister Responsible for Housing France-Elaine Duranceau responds to the Opposition during question period, Thursday, September 28, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
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The ethics commissioner for the Quebec legislature has concluded that the housing minister improperly promoted the personal interest of a friend when she met with her in 2022.

Commissioner Ariane Mignolet says that while minister France-Elaine Duranceau could be expected to meet with people in the housing sector, her December meeting with developer Annie Lemieux seemed to serve little purpose and was prioritized due to the pair's friendship.

Mignolet says no one should get privileged access to a minister because of a personal relationship.

The investigation into the meeting between Duranceau and her longtime friend and real estate business partner, who was registered as a lobbyist, was opened in June.

Duranceau said today that she made a good faith error by organizing the meeting in a way that was typical in the business world but not right for politics.

The ethics commissioner did not recommend a sanction for Duranceau because she acknowledged her error and agreed to seek training.

That didn't satisfy the opposition, who criticized Duranceau for being too close to the real estate industry and of taking positions that favour wealthy landlords over renters struggling to find affordable housing.

Liberal member Monsef Derraji said he's tired of seeing members of the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec "repeatedly show arrogance" when it comes to following ethics rules.

"While the minister has admitted she was wrong, it's important to remind all ministers to always act with great caution," he said. "Nobody is above the code of ethics."

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 30, 2023.

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