Montreal

Orford deal completed before Béchard arrived

Quebec's new sustainable development minister denies he got his new job because the premier believes he'll be more lenient on environmental issues.

Quebec's new sustainable development minister denies he got his new job because the premier believes he'll be more lenient on environmental issues.

Claude Béchard is defending himself after his predecessor, Thomas Mulcair, wrote an open letter suggesting his replacement will bow to political and industrial pressures.

In a media release, Mulcair says his tough stand on some environmental files spurred confrontation within the Charest government.

He goes on to suggest Béchard was chosen to take his place because he is more likely to bend under pressure at the cabinet table.

B&3233;chard denies the allegation, saying no one will get a free pass on his watch. When Premier Charest announced his cabinet shuffle last Monday, he said Béchard faces a big job.

"In the case of Claude, in sustainable development and environment, we have some very important projects: the passing of the bill on sustainable development, and our strategy on greenhouse gases, are two very important policies," Charest had said.

One week later, Béchard announced plans for the province to sell off part of Mont Orford Park in the Eastern Townships for condominium development.

Some suggest Mulcair, who was shuffled out of cabinet last month, was blocking the project, to ensure the protection of the park's unique ecosystem.

Béchard denies that allegation as well, insisting the plan was prepared by Mulcair, and was ready for release when he arrived in his new job.