Ex-Bloc leader's testimony raises more questions
MPs look at parliamentary expenses of former leader Gilles Duceppe
An appearance by former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe on Monday has raised more questions about allegations of misspending, said MPs who spoke to him behind closed doors.
Duceppe, who lost his seat in the May 2, 2011, election, returned to Ottawa Monday morning to defend himself against allegations he used part of his parliamentary budget to pay party expenses.
Duceppe told reporters following the meeting that he's confident about the investigation into allegations he misused public funds.
Duceppe said he wouldn't comment until there was a decision by the board, but he was confident about it, and satisfied he hadn't done anything wrong either ethically or legally.
A statement released by a spokeswoman for the secretive Board of Internal Economy, which always meets behind closed doors, thanked Duceppe for meeting with the committee.
"As a result of his appearance and information provided, many additional questions have been raised. The board will be continuing and expanding its review of the matter," Heather Bradley said.
Conservative MP Gordon O'Connor, a member of the committee, said Duceppe was asked to provide more information.
"He was asked for additional material. There are also a number of other individuals involved who at some stage I anticipate will be asked to provide evidence," O'Connor told the CBC's Julie Van Dusen.
Government House leader Peter Van Loan, another member of the board, said he thinks "it's more than a question of one director general of the party." NDP MP Joe Comartin, who also sits on the committee, said it will decide at the next meeting how to proceed.
Accused of using public funds for partisan reasons
Duceppe has found himself under scrutiny since it was reported last month that he paid his party's general manager, Gilbert Gardner, for seven years with funds designated to run his Ottawa office as a party leader. Duceppe has been accused of using public funds inappropriately for partisan purposes by paying Gardner, who worked at Bloc headquarters in Montreal, with parliamentary funds.
La Presse reported that Gardner's salary had reached more than $100,000, and the newspaper also said that Duceppe's office had hired Marie-France Charbonneau, the wife of Duceppe's former chief of staff François Leblanc, as an adviser and paid her from the budget for his Ottawa office.
Charbonneau was writing a book at the time about the history of the Bloc.
Duceppe, who provided a written legal opinion to the board two weeks ago, has said he respected parliamentary rules and that allegations against him are "false" and "partisan."
The House of Commons Board of Internal Economy, the financial and administrative governing body for Parliament, has two NDP MPs, one Liberal, and three Conservative MPs sitting on it. Speaker Andrew Scheer chairs the meetings.
Duceppe released to the media an additional legal opinion presented Monday to the board.