Claude Blanchet, the husband of Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois, is denying a Radio-Canada report that says he solicited a $25,000 political contribution from a Montreal-area businessman for his wife’s leadership bid.
The report by investigative reporter Alain Gravel for the Radio-Canada program Enquête quotes an affidavit from a businessman with a long history in Montreal’s engineering sector dated March 25, 2014.
The man’s identity is not revealed.
The affidavit says that Blanchet approached the businessman to solicit a political contribution of $25,000 in the spring of 2007, just after former PQ leader André Boisclair announced that he was stepping down.
The businessman attests that he asked his organization to contribute the $25,000 in individual donations of no more than $3,000 each.
PQ policies at the time capped individual contributions at $3,000 for leadership campaigns.
In his affidavit, the businessman says he then met with Blanchet a few weeks later to personally hand over an envelope containing the cheques totalling $25,000.
He also says in the affidavit that in exchange for collecting the donations he hoped for privileged access to Marois.
Blanchet’s alleged solicitation of the donations was not illegal and there is no evidence that Blanchet knew how the funds were being collected.
In an interview with Gravel, Blanchet denied soliciting funds from the businessman for his wife’s political work in 2007.
“Never in my life,” Blanchet said.
He also denied receiving an envelope from the businessman with cheques of no more than $3,000 from different donors.
“Never,” he said.
Radio-Canada also spoke to two employees of engineering firms who say they were pressured by their employers to write $3,000 cheques for Marois’ leadership bid in 2007.
The report says they were later reimbursed by their employers.
There is nothing that ties Blanchet to these two cases.
However, Radio-Canada reports that Blanchet allegedly asked a manager of another engineering firm for money during the 2008 election campaign.
The businessman said he gave Blanchet cheques totalling $5,000 collected from employees of his firm.
He said the employees were later reimbursed.
Again, there is no evidence that Blanchet was aware that this was the way firms were raising the money.
Blanchet, Marois reply
A letter to Radio-Canada from a law firm representing Blanchet reaffirms his denial of the affidavit’s claims.
“Our client reiterates that he never participated in any act of political financing that broke applicable rules,” it reads.
The letter contends that only three days lapsed between Boisclair’s resignation and the ascension of Marois as PQ leader, not the weeks mentioned in the affidavit.
A timeline provided by Radio-Canada, however, shows that almost a month and half passed between the time Boisclair stepped down and Marois’s confirmation as PQ leader.
Marois told reporters Monday afternoon that her husband always followed the rules governing fundraising.
“There’s nothing fishy here,” she said.