(Quebec) The Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, on Wednesday rejected the severe blame pronounced by the Ethics Commissioner against him, believing that he had nothing to be ashamed of.
But his opposition will not change anything as a result of things, because everything indicates that, exceptionally, the National Assembly will sanction Minister Fitzgibbon with one voice, Thursday, during a vote in the House.
Whatever he thinks, Mr. Fitzgibbon, who will not be present at the Blue Room at the time of the vote, will therefore have to cash on Thursday a humiliating lesson served by his peers.
At the Blue Room, in the morning Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgibbon took advantage of the right to speak made available to him the day before the vote to give his version of the facts, in the hope of preserving his reputation with elected officials.
Visibly upset, reading a long text, he stood up to affirm that he had always acted in good faith in his role as Minister and that he had never placed himself in a situation of conflict of interest or appearance conflict of interest. He added that he had never personally benefited from his contacts with contractors or lobbyists.
He admitted that he found it “difficult” to have to deal with a reprimand questioning his ethics. In detail, point by point, he denied the conclusions of the commissioner in each of the three disputed files.
According to the rules in force, two-thirds of the deputies must approve the conclusions of the ethics commissioner for her recommendation to turn into formal censure of the National Assembly.
But little doubt remains about the outcome. Acknowledging that his minister had been reckless, Prime Minister François Legault said last week that his caucus of deputies, which forms the majority of elected officials, would vote in favor of the commissioner’s recommendations, as would elected members of opposition parties.
In her report, made public on October 29, Commissioner Ariane Mignolet deplored both the snags in the code of ethics for parliamentarians in the behavior of the minister, as well as his reluctance to want to change.
She especially criticized her for being too close to one of her entrepreneur and lobbyist friends, Luc Laperrière, who was entitled to privileged access.
In her report, the Commissioner concluded that Mr. Fitzgibbon had placed himself in a situation where his personal interest could influence his independence of judgment in the exercise of his office, because of his close, friendly and financial ties with Mr. Laperriere.
The latter, who had direct access to the minister while promoting projects to the government, agreed to acquire shares in the company Move Protein, which Mr. Fitzgibbon was to dispose of. He did so at Mr. Fitzgibbon’s request, to be of service to him.
“The fact that a lobbyist, bound by a great relationship of friendship with a member of the Executive Council, and who agrees to buy him shares of a company to do him a favor, can communicate directly with him in order to organize professional meetings harms the maintenance of public confidence in […] democratic institutions, ”she wrote.
“When you occupy a position like that of Minister, it is essential to clearly draw the line between your personal and professional relations. In light of the above, I recommend that a reprimand be imposed on the Minister. », She concluded.
M Mignolet also deplored in his report to see Minister Fitzgibbon react to his conclusions by considering that he had nothing to be ashamed of. “I do not denote any real will to change,” she wrote, adding that her attitude had contributed to her decision to recommend a sanction.
On Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgibbon maintained that he had always acted in the interest of Quebec’s economic development, only.
In each of the problem cases raised by the commissioner, the minister considers having “acted in good faith and above all with ethics”, he declared in the House, adding that he never placed himself in a situation of conflict of interest.
Mr. Laperrière “has not received any preferential treatment because of our friendly relationship,” said the Minister of the Economy, who assures that he has never interfered in the administrative process of project evaluation. There was no embezzlement of any kind in the management of these projects, he insisted.
In conclusion, with lip service, he nevertheless admitted that he should be more careful in the future, by refraining from speaking to lobbyists “who are in debt to me”.