Former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier frequently bad-mouthed Prime Minister Stephen Harper and once asked his girlfriend to dispose of confidential NATO briefing papers on trash day, Julie Couillard writes in her highly anticipated autobiography.
Couillard's book, My Story, released to the CBC and other media organizations ahead of its arrival at bookstores on Monday, portrays Bernier as a narcissistic womanizer who expressed disgust at Harper's eating habits and viewed Quebec's independence as an acceptable inevitability.
"Of course, it [independence] doesn't frighten me at all, that's where we're headed. It's obvious," the book quotes Bernier as telling Couillard during a dinner at a downtown Montreal restaurant within hearing range of other patrons. "And I have no problem with that. I'm ready. I'm expecting that."
Couillard's book has already sparked intense interest in Quebec and is bound to add fresh controversy for the Conservatives ahead of the Oct. 14 federal election on the day of the party leaders' French-language debates in Ottawa.
In her book, Couillard writes that Bernier, a star candidate for the Conservatives in Quebec who was given the foreign affairs portfolio by Harper in 2007, was personally opposed to sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan and often fought with the Prime Minister's Office over Harper's "dictator" style of leadership.
At one point, she writes, Bernier became convinced that Harper would not survive a first term as prime minister, and envisioned himself as winning a leadership convention before the next election was called.
When she agreed to be his girlfriend for at least a year, she writes, Bernier told her it would put to rest rumours circling around Parliament Hill that he was gay because he had been single for two years and was friends with an openly gay cabinet minister.
Book describes past relationships with bikers
The book ranges from Couillard's modest upbringing in Montreal to her careers in modelling and real estate before delving into her romantic life.
Couillard details her past relationships with Gilles Giguère, a well-known Montreal crime figure who was gunned down in 1996 after becoming a police informer, as well as a turbulent two-year marriage to Stéphane Sirois, who admitted to being an enforcer for the Rockers, a Hells Angels puppet club.
She describes the "sheer hell" of hiding in her house for three days straight amid the media storm sparked when her past ties with the men came to light amid intense public scrutiny of her recently ended relationship with a cabinet member.
Couillard also contends that Bernier, an active runner, was constantly concerned about his own physical appearance, and frequently criticized the physical shape of his boss, complaining that Harper had a paunch, ate badly and constantly drank Pepsi.
"I remember saying to him, 'Is he your wife, or your boss?' " she writes.
Couillard also writes that Bernier showed a "surprising degree of intellectual laziness" for a politician in his position and also mocked his constituents in Quebec's Beauce region.
She 'wants glory and visibility': Bernier
Bernier resigned from cabinet in May only hours before Couillard described in a television interview how he had left classified briefing documents for a NATO summit at her Montreal home. The two had recently ended their relationship.
In an interview with a local radio station in his home riding on Wednesday, Bernier dismissed Couillard's allegations as "gossipy delusions," saying his former girlfriend was only interested in increasing book sales.
"That woman's intention is to personally harm me personally in my campaign in the Beauce, and to harm my relationship with my leader," he said.
Bernier said Couillard is "presently under RCMP investigation," citing a recent report by the Globe and Mail that said the Mounties were continuing their probe surrounding Couillard and the documents, as well as allegations Couillard lobbied Conservative officials on a federal land deal.
He noted she has said in the past she believed someone had placed microphone listening devices under her bed.
"People have realized she's a woman who is frustrated, who wants glory and visibility," he said. "I made the error of going out with her."
He denied ever ridiculing his constituents and said he would not suspend campaign appearances in his riding or hesitate from lending a hand to his fellow Conservative candidates.
"People know me, I am very proud to be from the Beauce," Bernier said. "I've said it everywhere I've travelled internationally, whether it's Saskatoon, in Canada, or in Paris, France. I've always defended Beauce values."
In the book, Couillard writes that Bernier did not own a laptop computer, which led him to always have bundles of papers with him, including the documents she alleges he left at her home and asked her to throw in her garbage bin.
"I could have wallpapered my house in confidential documents," she writes, while adding Bernier treated her home as a second office.
She also alleges Bernier offered to put her name forward to work as an Immigration and Refugee Board commissioner, and then gave her filled-out application form to Immigration Minister Diane Finley.
A few weeks later, she alleges, he told her he thought it would be best if they no longer saw each other in public because she was applying for a federal position and "people will talk."