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Couillard challenges party leaders to disclose personal financial assets

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard says he will release his 2012 personal income tax return as well as details on his personal assets and those of his spouse.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

With a poll confirming his status as front-runner, Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard went on the offensive Tuesday.

Striking back against opponents who have been raising the Liberal Party's ethical record, he issued a challenge that appeared to be aimed directly at Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois and her husband.

Mr. Couillard announced that he will release his 2012 personal income tax return as well as details on his personal assets and those of his spouse.

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"Here we have a practical test on transparency and integrity," he said as he challenged the other party leaders to do the same.

Ms. Marois declined, dismissing Mr. Couillard's gambit as little more than a diversion.

The Liberal Leader's move appeared to be aimed specifically at Ms. Marois's husband, Claude Blanchet, although Mr. Couillard denied this.

Mr. Blanchet has described himself as a self-made millionaire. Testimony at the Charbonneau corruption commission indicated close ties and investments involving the Quebec Federation of Labour's Solidarity Fund in one of Mr. Blanchet's companies.

Ms. Marois said Tuesday that she has no intention of going beyond disclosures she has already made with Quebec's Ethics Commissioner, which includes a statement on her assets and 2012 income tax return.

"The Ethics Commissioner already has all the documents that I was required to file, and that my husband was required to file. And the Ethics Commissioner has said he's very satisfied."

The Liberals have two ways to gain by forcing the issue of disclosure. Ms. Marois's refusal to reveal the couple's assets could create doubt among voters. But if Mr. Blanchet were to reveal all of his financial holdings, the Liberals would be free to scour them for potential embarrassments.

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Mr. Couillard said he will post his personal financial information on the party website, and invited his opponents to do the same, before Thursday's second televised debates.

"I am only showing my standards of transparency and asking them to do the same. The PQ talks a lot about transparency and integrity. It's a lot of talk about … sullying to get elected. Let's see how they follow up on their own talk," he said.

Mr. Couillard refused to comment on the poll indicating the Liberals are in the lead except to say that it showed a "desire for change."

With a report from Les Perreaux.

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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