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Premier Marois denies deal with labour group to thwart corruption inquiry

Premier Pauline Marois denies an allegation that her husband struck a deal with the Quebec Federation of Labour to thwart a corruption inquiry.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Premier Pauline Marois was adamant Wednesday that her husband never struck a deal with Quebec's largest labour federation to protect that union's interests and thwart a potential corruption inquiry.

Evidence at the Charbonneau Commission, which is looking into the construction industry, suggested that the Quebec Federation of Labour was ready to lobby Marois and the Parti Québécois in 2009 to put a stop to any future corruption probe.

Marois said Wednesday that no such intervention took place and that she was never pressured by the federation's directors.

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"There was no agreement reached, there was no deal, as they say," Marois said with a laugh during a press briefing in Davos, Switzerland, where she was attending the World Economic Summit.

In a wiretap played Tuesday at the Charbonneau Commission in Montreal, two union executives were overheard talking in 2009 about applying pressure to the PQ to make sure no such inquiry took place.

Then-union president Michel Arsenault reassures Jean Lavallée that they have a deal with "Blanchet," a reference to Marois's husband, Claude Blanchet, a former director at the labour federation's Solidarity Fund from 1983 to 1997.

"The PQ won't touch this," Arsenault tells Lavallee, ex-president of the labour federation's construction wing. "I'll talk to Pauline."

Marois was leader of the Opposition in 2009.

The first-name reference prompted the Opposition Liberals and the Coalition for Quebec's Future to express concerns about the type of influence the union may have had on Marois.

But the PQ leader played down the pull the union has with the party.

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"You might have noticed that while the QFL had usually supported the Parti Québécois, that wasn't the case in the last two elections," Marois said.

Marois said the union brass were informed quickly that her party intended to push for a public inquiry and added the relationship her husband had with the union was strictly business.

"There wasn't any deal and there is no deal," she said. "I decided that we would ask for a commission of inquiry regardless of what any group thought, be it the QFL or anyone else.

"If they spoke to us, and they speak to us regularly, it didn't yield the desired results."

The Premier said she told Arsenault the PQ would push for an inquiry. They didn't agree on the necessity of one, but Marois insisted Arsenault did not pressure her.

The Liberals, in power at the time, finally agreed to call an inquiry in November, 2011.

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