PQ demands release of documents related to alleged government real estate fraud

Quebec's Official Opposition is calling for a legislative committee to look into what the CAQ contends could be the biggest fraud in Quebec history: allegations that three Liberal organizers and a former head of a Crown corporation split government real estate payouts.

MNA Agnès Maltais calls on Quebec premier to ‘clean up’ Liberal Party, CAQ demands party funding be cut

Parti Québécois MNA Agnès Maltais is demanding documents related to the investigation into alleged government real estate fraud by Liberal fundraisers and the former CEO of a provincial Crown corporation be made public. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec's Official Opposition is calling for a legislative committee to look into allegations that three Liberal Party fundraisers and the former head of a Crown corporation were involved in a series of real estate frauds.

Parti Québécois MNA Agnès Maltais called for documents related to the investigation to be made public, saying she's never seen a scandal in which a sitting premier could be so closely implicated. 

"The Liberal Party leader, Mr. [Philippe] Couillard, can't hide behind the fact there's a UPAC investigation. When your house is in disorder, you must put it in order. You need to clean it up," she said on Friday morning.

Maltais was responding to a report made public Thursday by Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête.

Enquête reported three party insiders may have received large sums of money through a series of real estate transactions, allegedly splitting that money with the former head of the provincial Crown corporation charged with managing those buildings (known by its former French acronym, the SIQ).

One of those fundraisers, William Bartlett, worked on Couillard's election campaign in 2007. Maltais demanded Couillard clarify his current relationship with Bartlett.

The key players — Bartlett, along with Franco Fava, Charles Rondeau and the SIQ's former CEO Marc-André Fortier — denied having received payments and refused to answer many questions when contacted by Enquête.

Cut Liberal funding, says CAQ

"The facts and evidence leaves little doubt: We could be talking about the biggest fraud in the history of Quebec – and with public funds," said the leader of Coalition Avenir Québec, François Legault, in a statement.

Legault suggested that the Liberal Party of Quebec may have benefitted from the alleged real estate fraud, and he called for public funding to the governing party to be cut until any money that the Liberals may have fraudulently received is repaid.

Enquête did not report that the Liberal Party received any share of the money from the alleged frauds.

In fact, a retired inspector with Quebec's anti-corruption unit who supervised the investigation until last year said it did not appear to be the case that the party received any money.

"It is sure that since we see collectors, logic dictates that we can look at that aspect but it was not shown ... Anyway, when I left, it was not demonstrated," said Christian Plourde.

The investigation by Quebec's anti-corruption unit into the alleged payouts is all but complete, and Crown prosecutors are reviewing the file. No one has been charged.

Premier responds

Premier Couillard shrugged off Legault's demand that the Liberal Party pay back money to the government, saying there are already institutions that oversee such matters, such as the chief electoral officer and UPAC.

"These events date from many years ago, which doesn't mean that they are not important — this is why institutions are looking at it," he said.

With files from Matt D'Amours