Lise Thibault should be stripped of pension, title: Democracy Watch

Democracy Watch says convicted former lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault should be stripped of her pension and title after pleading guilty to fraud and breach of trust.

Former lieutenant-governor retains 'honourable' title, pension despite criminal conviction

Former Quebec lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault is escorted from the courtroom after receiving an 18-month prison sentence on Sept. 30 in Quebec City. (Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot)

Convicted former lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault should be stripped of her pension and title after pleading guilty to fraud and breach of trust, according to the citizen advocacy group Democracy Watch.

"Unfortunately, we have weak rules, and we allow lots of people – even if they are convicted – to walk away taking the public's money and the public's titles and other things with them," said Duff Conacher, the founding director of Democracy Watch, an advocacy group for democratic reform and corporate responsibility.

Thibault, 76, pleaded guilty last year to submitting expenses for travel, gifts, meals and events for herself and her family during her 10-year appointment. In September, she was sentenced to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay back $200,000 to the federal government and another $100,000 to the Quebec government.

Both Thibault and the Crown are appealing the sentence. 

Thibault's lawyer has said the sentence is too harsh, considering the disabled woman's age and physical condition. Prosecutor Marcel Guimont believes the sentence for the former Queen's representative in Quebec should be increased to four years. 

The Quebec Court of Appeal is to hear arguments in February 2016.

Need for stronger rules: Conacher

Thibault retains the title "honourable," something bestowed upon all lieutenant-governors. She also keeps her pension, estimated at $30,000 a year.

There are no rules under which a lieutenant-governor's pension can be revoked, according to a Treasury Board of Canada official.

When it comes to her "honourable" title, there is no clause in Canadian law that addresses a situation where a Queen's representative is convicted of a criminal offence. However, the federal cabinet can decide to strip her of the designation.

Conacher believes the federal government should have stronger rules and punishments to deal with politicians and dignitaries who abuse their position of power for personal gain.

"The system should be automatic... If you are convicted of certain types of crimes or violations of other laws, then you should lose your title and any other perks you retain from the position," he said.