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Marois defends husband’s integrity amid claims he profited from Quebec labour ties

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois speaks to reporters in Montreal on Jan. 14, 2014.


Quebec Premier Pauline Marois says she's the target of a mudslinging campaign after repeated charges by political opponents that her husband, Claude Blanchet, profited from his close ties with the Quebec Federation of Labour Solidarity Fund.

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault alleges that the QFL Solidarity Fund entered into a money-losing venture with one of Mr. Blanchet's real estate companies, Capital BLF Inc., to obtain political favours from Ms. Marois.

"My husband is a man of integrity. He can do business without me. I can tell you that anyone who would try to use someone in my family or entourage to put pressure on me, to force me to change my mind, would be turned away," Ms. Marois said on Tuesday.

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Mr. Blanchet was the first director-general of the QFL Solidarity Fund from 1983 to 1997.

Mr. Legault's allegation stems from recent revelations at the Charbonneau commission into corruption in Quebec. In a 2009 wiretap involving QFL union boss Michel Arsenault that was recently played at the inquiry, it was suggested that Mr. Blanchet's project was funded as part of a "deal" to ensure the union would never have "trouble with her" when Ms. Marois would become premier.

Mr. Arsenault told the inquiry that his comments were "a tasteless joke" and that the investment with Mr. Blanchet's company "was never intended to corrupt Ms. Marois."

Mr. Legault argued that too many questions involving the "deal" remained unanswered and needed to be resolved before an election is called.

The CAQ Leader asked why the QFL Solidarity Fund paid three times more for shares in Capital BLF Inc. than what Mr. Blanchet had originally paid. The Solidarity Fund's $3-million investment is now worth half of what it paid. Meanwhile, according to the CAQ, Mr. Blanchet, who sold his shares in the company last year, collected close to $700,000 in management fees since 2007.

Mr. Legault called on the Liberals to support his demand that Mr. Blanchet appear before a National Assembly committee to explain his dealings with the union fund.

"We might be in an election in a few weeks so I think it would be important that Quebeckers know what happened before they vote," Mr. Legault said on Tuesday at the conclusion of a two-day caucus meeting.

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Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard refused to support Mr. Legault's demand saying his party has no interest in setting up a "parallel Charbonneau commission."

"Let the commission take its course and let the commissioner [France Charbonneau] eventually complete her report and discuss Mr. Blanchet's case," Mr. Couillard said on Tuesday.

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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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