Veteran political organizer Gilles Cloutier’s explosive allegations that up to 90 per cent of political campaign funding at the municipal level is illegal touched off a firestorm of reactions today.
Cloutier, who began his long career working for Maurice Duplessis in 1950s, took the stand today at the Charbonneau commission.
His testimony touched on a number of allegations about political misdeeds, including illegal fundraising for the "No" side in the 1995 referendum.
He said thousands of undeclared dollars were spent on massive billboards reading "No, thank you" for the anti-separation camp.
Bernard Drainville, the Parti Québécois minister responsible for democratic institutions and active citizenship, said it confirmed his suspicions.
"We had proof of that after the Grenier report, which showed that the hundreds of thousands of dollars transited through Option Canada," he said.
"Now we have further proof, by Mr. Cloutier's testimony, that the ‘No’ camp tried to steal the referendum of 1995."
But Jean-François Lisée advised caution in convicting people based on testimony heard at the Charbonneau commission.
"Let’s be prudent with these testimonies. Let’s wait for corroboration, let’s wait for [cross-examination]," he said.
Cloutier's allegations not surprising
In his testimony, Cloutier alleged that companies covertly funnelled money to political parties by getting employees and their families to make donations as individuals and then reimbursing them with company funds.
Jacques Duchesneau, whose internal report on corruption in the construction industry played a major role in the launching of the Charbonneau commission, agreed with Cloutier’s assessment that 90 per cent of municipal political funding is illegal.
"I’m not surprised at all. In fact, I mentioned 70 per cent was illegal funds. Actually, it seems like about 90 per cent at the municipal level — I just made a mistake," Duchesneau said.
"Was there willful blindness? I think that there was," he added.
Official Opposition leader Jean-Marc Fournier said giving more power to the Chief Electoral Officer (DGE) to look into campaign budgets and financing would be one way to curb this kind of behaviour in the future.