Quebec political party-in-waiting raises $139K

A group often touted as a strong contender in the next Quebec election has managed to raise $139,600 since February even though it doesn't exist yet as a political party.

Francois Legault's right-leaning group gets support from high-profile Quebecers

Former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Francois Legault announces the creation of the party Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec (Coalition for Quebec’s Future), at a news conference in Quebec City in February. (Canadian Press / Jacques Boissinot)

A group often touted as a strong contender in the next Quebec election has managed to raise $139,600 since February even though it doesn't exist yet as a political party.

The numbers for the right-of-centre group -- which would shelve talk of Quebec sovereignty in favour of social and economic reform -- were released Thursday following calls for more transperency in their financing.

The documents suggest the Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec, led by ex-PQ cabinet minister Francois Legault and businessman Charles Sirois, is getting support from high-profile Quebecers.

Among those who have kicked in money to help are Hubert Bolduc, former spokesman for ex-PQ premier Bernard Landry and current vice-president at Cascades, a paper-products company; powerful Quebec film producer Roger Frappier; and Mario Charpentier, former president of l'Action démocratique du Québec.

Other donors include Marcel Dutil, chairman of construction products company Canam, and Tulio Cedraschi, former president of the CN pension fund.

The coalition is able to amply cover its operating expenses, which total $97,000 so far, and Legault is poised to go on a fundraising tour in the fall.

It drew a large crowd to a fundraising cocktail in June, with 250 participants shelling out $250 each to hear Legault explain the coalition's goals with the aim of forming a political party by the end of the year.

Bolduc said he didn't necessarily attend to support any new political party.

"I went because I like Francois Legault and I was curious to hear what he and Charles Sirois had to say," Bolduc said in a telephone interview.

"I didn't go because I am against the Parti Québécois or because I think less of the Parti Québécois. I went out of curiousity and my curiousity was satisfied."

Jean-Francois Belleau, director-general of the association of Quebec daycare centres, said it was important to hear what the coalition had to say.

Luciano Del Negro, president of a Jewish-rights group, added, "It's important to take the pulse, to know where Quebec's heading."

Filling a void

Quebecers have repeatedly expressed curiosity over the potential new party, putting it ahead of Jean Charest's Liberals in opinion polls. Often cited is the constant squabbling and lack of new ideas offered by the old parties.

In fact, the coalition is giving a peek at its finances only after the Liberals challenged it to reveal who was backing it.

The group won't say how much each person has contributed, saying that's "not in the public interest."

The coalition said, in announcing its list of donors, that it hoped it "would put an end to the distractions raised by certain people."

The statement from Legault and Sirois added that "in politics as in other matters, we feel that transparency is the best remedy to combat false accusations and cynicism."

Coalition spokesman Martin Koskinen echoed that, saying, "We don't want to be the victims of spurious associations, so that people think we're financed by a secret organization or something like that."

Legault fronted the coalition $9,000 to get off the ground last winter and Sirois also made a financial contribution.

Because the coalition isn't an official party yet the contributions don't qualify for a tax credit -- but the organization has decided to conform to Quebec's electoral law and limit other donations to $1,000 per person per year.

Not playing by the rules: Liberals

The governing Liberals appear set to continue attacking the ethics of their potential rivals.

They said later Thursday that Legault's party had clearly failed to respect the standards other parties follow.

The Liberals said that the coalition had failed to follow the transparency guidelines -- and noted that Legault's contribution alone was nine times higher than the contribution limit.

Meanwhile, Legault's party still has some tough slogging ahead if it wants to compete with the established parties.

In comparison, the Liberals got $4.9 million in donations in 2010 while the PQ took in $3.2 million. Québec solidaire managed to accumulate $413,000 while the ADQ collected $213,000.

For 2011, the Liberals got $166,000 in donations in May and June, the PQ got $130,000 and the ADQ $26,000.

Legault also encouraged people on Thursday to not only donate but also volunteer for the coalition.