Charest denies ministers linked to Accurso
Quebec Premier Jean Charest is denying allegations that three of his cabinet ministers had fraternized with a Montreal businessman at the centre of two political scandals in the city.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Charest said the ministers concerned were Transport Minister Julie Boulet, Deputy Transport Minister Norman MacMillan and former labour minister David Whissell.
"We verified with these people and the information is false," Charest said.
The premier was responding to accusations made Thursday in the national assembly by Action Démocratique interim leader Sylvie Roy.
Without naming the ministers — or her source — Roy said three cabinet members had vacationed on board a yacht belonging to Tony Accurso.
In the interview, Charest said he and Raymond Bachand, the minister responsible for Montreal, met with former Montreal opposition leader Benoît Labonté March 5 at Labonté’s request.
He said Labonté told him that certain ministers in his cabinet had been on Accurso’s boat.
"I asked him who," said Charest. "There was no response."
Later, Labonté called back to name names, assuring him the information was coming from political and police sources, said Charest.
The premier said he had the information verified by his chief of staff, Daniel Gagné and continues to have faith in all three.
The accusations emerged as new revelations about Accurso’s involvement with Quebec politics come to light.
Labonté has admitted to accepting $100,000 from Accurso to fund his bid for leadership of his civic party last year.
The admission has all but destroyed Labonté’s political career. He was forced to pull out of the municipal election on the weekend and resigned from his party.
Accurso was also named during Montreal’s water-meter scandal earlier this year.
The former president of Montreal’s executive committee, Frank Zampino, admitted to vacationing with Accurso during the tender process for the city’s lucrative water-meter contract.
One of Accurso’s construction companies was part of the winning consortium’s bid. That contract has since been cancelled.
Around the same time, RCMP officers raided the offices of one of Accurso's companies as part of an investigation into corruption at the Canada Revenue Agency.
On Thursday, the province announced the creation of a special police squad to investigate allegations of collusion in the construction industry.