Julie Boulet, ex-transport minister, says she wasn't involved in fundraising
Previous witnesses say they were pressured to make donations to Liberal party
Liberal MNA and former transport minister Julie Boulet says she never directly solicited entrepreneurs to attend party fundraisers and she wasn't involved in collecting political contributions.
Boulet is the latest politician to be called to testify before the province's corruption commission about political fundraising and the awarding of public contracts.
She's the second former transport minister to testify in as many weeks.
Boulet said she wasn't involved in setting up fundraising events in her constituency, events that at least one local entrepreneur claimed were a conduit for securing lucrative provincial contracts.
She said didn’t like the cocktail parties and didn’t really know the people who attended.
"It wasn’t something that interested me. It was my work... I went out of obligation," she said.
The parties were held twice a year: a spring time one in Grand-Mère, and one in the fall in La Tuque. Local business people, lawyers, mayors and people in the forestry sector most often attended, spending $500 a ticket.
Boulet said there were regularly at least three representatives from local construction firms at the events. However, she said that did not compromise her party's ability to follow fundraising rules.
She said she had no knowledge of a $100,000 annual fundraising quota for each minister - one referred to by former MNA Norm MacMillan when he testified before the commission.
In fact, Boulet said, she had never sold a membership card for the party, never herself sold a ticket to a cocktail fundraiser and wasn't involved in the planning of the events.
Boulet served as junior transport minister in Jean Charest’s Liberal government from September 2003 to 2007 and then transport minister until 2010.
In 2009, the then-PQ opposition leader, Pauline Marois, demanded the resignation of Boulet and her junior minister, MacMillan, after the auditor general found a large number of irregularities within Transport Quebec.
She was re-elected in the Laviolette riding in the April election, but she was not named to cabinet by premier Philippe Couillard.
Last week, Guy Chevrette, a longtime Parti Québécois cabinet minister, vehemently denied he accepted money in exchange for political favours.
Shut out of minister's office
Two regional managers from the transport ministry of have told the commission that they were pressured by Boulet to favour certain entreprenuers in the ridings of Laviolette and Maskinongé.
Earlier this week, Louis Marchand, owner of the construction firm Maskimo, harshly criticized the system of political financing in which his company was mired in the 2000s that he said involved the transport minister's office.
He told the commission that shortly after he took over the family business in 2009, he decided the firm would no longer participate.
Marchand said his firm was shut out of the transport minister’s office when employees stopped making political contributions.
“There were no more meetings, no more communication with the office of Ms. Boulet,” he said.
He also described one phone call he received directly from Boulet in 2004 after turning down an invitation to buy a ticket for a fundraising event in Shawinigan.
“She said it wasn’t her fault if we had fewer contracts than others and that she was very, very, very disappointed that we weren’t participating in her fundraising event,” he said.
Boulet has denied ever calling any entrepreneurs directly to solicit donations. She said she called Marchand, but only to find out why he didn't want to attend.
"The important thing for me was to do the work, to improve access to roads and to put people to work, no matter who was doing it," she told the commission.
"I never, never, never at any time gave a directive as to who was to receive or not receive a contract."