Former Parti Québecois leader André Boisclair has been relieved of his functions as Quebec's official representative in New York City at his own request so he can fight allegations involving his past cocaine use.
International Relations Minister Jean-François Lisée confirmed the news late Friday.
"I wish Mr. Boisclair good luck in these difficult times, and I thank him for the excellent work he has accomplished in the last few months in New York," said Lisée in a statement.
Boisclair has scheduled a news conference in Montreal on Monday.
Premier's support lukewarm
Earlier on Friday, his boss was less than categorical in her support for Boisclair.
Marois was asked whether she still had confidence in Boisclair.
"Mr. Boisclair is a responsible man," she told a news conference in La Malbaie, Que.
"I am certain he will know to make the decisions that need to be made at the appropriate time."
That choice of words was similar to what Marois said about former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay last year, before he resigned in scandal. Tremblay has since cited Marois' comments as the moment he knew he needed to quit, because the provincial government was forcing him out.
Boisclair demands CAQ retract musings
Boisclair's most recent troubles began after a friend, former construction boss Paul Sauvé, testified at the Charbonneau Commission into Quebec's construction industry last week.
Sauvé has said Boisclair – a friend – authorized a $2.5 million grant for a project to renovate St. James United Church in downtown Montreal in his final days as municipal affairs minister in the run-up to the 2003 provincial election.
Jacques Duchesneau, a prominent MNA with the opposition Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), drew links this week between Sauvé's alleged links to the Hells Angels and the fact Boisclair has admitted to using cocaine while in government.
He made dark suggestions that Boisclair's drug use might have left him at the mercy of the criminal group and made him feel pressure to offer the contract.
Given that Duchesneau was a former police investigator and head of the provincial anti-collusion unit, that's left some Quebecers wondering whether he actually knows something about Boisclair — or whether he is engaging in a smear job.
Duchesneau has played coy, declining to say whether he holds any incriminating information.
Boisclair has threatened Duchesneau with legal action if he doesn't retract his comments. Duchesneau, in turn, has said he has no intention of withdrawing the remarks.