UPAC denies Ouellette's claims of setup; investigation will continue
Quebec's anti-corruption police are denying any wrongdoing after being accused of setting up an MNA who was arrested last week.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, senior UPAC officers denied that Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette's arrest was meant to intimidate him, adding that his arrest was unrelated to his claims of investigating collusion between the police force and the province's financial markets regulator (AMF).
UPAC chief Robert Lafreniere said Ouellette's arrest was tied to an investigation that started last April after sensitive information was leaked to the media. Ouellette was not charged after his arrest but Lafreniere said he does anticipate some charges connected to the case are coming, but would not confirm whether any of those would be against Ouellette.
Speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Ouellette accused UPAC of unprecedented intimidation tactics.
Ouellette was arrested last Wednesday in connection with a UPAC investigation into information leaked to the media in April. He has not been charged with any crime.
Before his brief address, Ouellette was introduced by speaker Jacques Chagnon, who called it "intolerable" for an MNA to be arrested with no charges a week later.
"Let him be accused or apologize," said Chagnon, to applause from MNAs from all sides. "In a free and democratic state, it's unbearable for a citizen to be arrested without prompt charges being laid."
During his speech, Ouellette alleged he was the victim of a setup.
"In recent weeks, irregularities in the application of certain regulations were brought to our attention," he said. "It's our job to invite the leaders to come answer the questions of parliamentarians and assure that the integrity of organizations charged to attend us aren't harmed by power struggles."
He concluded to a standing ovation from his colleagues.
In a radio interview released Monday, Ouellette denied he was responsible for the leak and also claimed that UPAC is trying to intimidate him because of other matters.
Speaking in the National Assembly Tuesday, Premier Philippe Couillard called the situation “serious and exceptional.” He said the Quebec population is expecting answers, adding that there are more questions than answers, even for himself, at this time.
Couillard said it was a fundamental right to hear Ouellette speak. He is also urging UPAC to publicly release as many details as it can into the arrest.
UPAC is expected to comment on the arrest at 4:30 p.m
The premier was careful to mention it’s important to let police forces do their work free from government or political interference – but also reiterated that the province's auditor general would review the AMF's process for approving government contracts and would amend Bill 107, a bill that established UPAC's independence.
Opposition parties are anticipating Ouellette’s address to the National Assembly. PQ house leader Pascal Berube crossed paths with Ouellette Tuesday morning.
“He’s a member of the Liberal Party. We don’t have the same views about the future of Quebec, but we do have the same views about the search for the truth and the freedom of speech that we need here at the National Assembly,” he said.
Ouellette is not sitting as a Liberal Party member for the time being, as he stepped down from the caucus shortly after the arrest.
CAQ house leader Francois Bonnardel hopes Ouellette will be given adequate time to share.
“I think all MNAs hope that Mr. Ouellette will have more than 60 or 120 seconds today. I hope that Mr. Chagnon will give him more time. It’s a moment of truth for him and I hope Mr. Ouellette will express himself at the National Assembly and say why he’d been arrested last week,” he said.