The Current

Internal politics and rivalry could be behind MNA Guy Ouellette's arrest, suggests reporter

"An elected parliamentarian being arrested without any true motive being given — I don't remember ... seeing this before," said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
Independent MNA Guy Ouellette made a declaration over his arrest by the Quebec anti-corruption unit in the legislature, Oct. 31. He is accusing the organization of what he calls unprecedented intimidation. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

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It's been shock after shock in Quebec politics of late.

First, the arrest last week of Quebec Member of the National Assembly Guy Ouellette, by the province's anti-corruption squad (UPAC).

In a press conference Tuesday — nearly a week after the arrest happened — UPAC admitted that they had "baited" Ouellette, but insisted he was not "trapped."

The well-respected, former provincial police officer has not been charged.

The twists and turns have even Premier Philippe Couillard scratching his head.

"Today we are faced with many more questions than answers and of course that includes me, that includes members of the government and our caucus," Couillard said Tuesday.

"This is the reason I am asking UPAC, if possible, within the confines of what they have to do and the inquiries they are conducting, to provide as much information as possible to the public  ...  An elected parliamentarian being arrested without any true motive being given – I don't remember recall seeing this before." 
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday the public is rightfully concerned about the Guy Ouellette arrest and deserves to hear more information. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

To add to this dramatic story, on Tuesday Ouellette said in the National Assembly that UPAC set him up to shut him up.

"It was absolutely stunning to watch," Martin Patriquin, columnist for ipolitics.ca, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

And it didn't stop there — the National Assembly's Speaker Jacques Chagnon spoke of the "risks of a slide into totalitarianism," calling the situation "intolerable."

"These are unprecedented words from the speaker of the house," said Patriquin.

"It was actually quite an incredible moment."

There may be internal politics at play here, Patriquin told Tremonti. Ouellette was chairing a commission looking at whether to give UPAC more power. And unconfirmed reports have suggested his arrest was because he had allegedly leaked sensitive documents to the media.

"There's all sorts of rivalries within police forces," said Patriquin.

"One of those is between Guy Ouellette and Robert Lafrenière, who is the head of UPAC. They don't like each other."

RelatedCop vs. cop: Quebec's corruption scandal takes another weird turn

But whatever intrigues may lie behind the arrest, Patriquin said, it's the lack of oversight for UPAC and its work that is causing the most concern.

"There's a real sense of that there's an unchecked power with this group," said Patriquin.

"It's dangerous because Quebecers don't have great faith in their institutions these days and that makes them that much more easy to co-opt."

Listen to the full conversation above.

This segment was produced by Montreal network producer Susan McKenzie.

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