Charest questions timing of Radio-Canada investigation

Quebec political parties spent part of Day 9 of the provincial election campaign addressing a controversy involving Liberal Party Leader Jean Charest.

Quebec's political party leaders comment on probe and offer new promises

Jean Charest reacted to the Radio-Canada investigation during a campaign stop to announce more development in Plan Nord. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec political parties spent part of Day 9 of the provincial election campaign addressing a controversy involving Liberal Party Leader Jean Charest.

The Liberals, who were pulled off message yesterday by a Radio-Canada investigation that found a surveillance operation was dropped after the target met with Charest, tried to refocus their campaign with an announcement on Plan Nord and natural resource development.

Charest, who had already commented on the report Wednesday, denied once again that he had any knowledge that the police operation had been interrupted and questioned the timing of the story, going so far as to wonder about the ethics of the public broadcaster.

"My conscience is clear this morning," Charest said. "I don't think that's the case for the journalists and those who are running Radio-Canada and who made this decision."

Québec solidaire co-founder Amir Khadir voiced his opinion about the investigation this morning at a campaign stop.

"If we believe Mr. Charest, we can always give him the benefit of the doubt, even if it's hard, that he would not have stopped the Sûreté du Québec operation each time that – even if it's a justified criminal investigation – the gentleman is a friend or acquaintance of Mr. Charest," said Khadir.

Khadir is not the only politician that decided to chime in and share their opinion on the allegations.

Party leader François Legault said he would give Charest the benefit of the doubt.

"I understand and I agree, and I accept Mr. Charest saying that he's not the one who gave this order" said Legault.

Though Legault said he wants to know who gave the order to stop the operation if Charest did not.

The Coalition Avenir Québec quickly launched the day by taking aim at the province’s high school drop-out rate.

At a campaign stop in Mirabel, north of Montreal, Legault announced his plan to extend hours in Quebec high schools to allow more time for homework help and additional extra-curricular activities.

"The dropout rates in Quebec are too high. [We’re] talking around 20 per cent," he said. "We have to do something."

The CAQ's proposed extra school hours would amount to five hours more in school a week, he said.

The party says it has allotted $290 million to pay for the plan, which would either be used to hire new personnel to staff the extra hours or for additional pay for existing staff.

Marois 'worried' about allegations

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois said Wednesday that she was concerned with the results of the Radio-Canada investigation.

"It's very worrisome," she said. "I think Mr. Charest must explain his connection to Eddy Brandone. How long have they had this said connection. Is what we are hearing correct?

"It certainly isn't a normal thing to stop an investigation. That's why we have to hear from Mr. Charest," she added.

The Parti Québécois turned its attention to the economy, with announcements on job growth and protecting businesses.

Marois announced the party's plan to have the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the province's pension-investment arm, set aside $10 billion of its nearly $160 billion in holdings for a special fund to strategically invest in Quebec companies so the province would have a say over how and where they conduct business. The aim would be to avoid foreign takeovers.