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Mo' ministers, mo' problems for Charest Liberals

Quebec Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis is the latest thorn in Premier Jean Charest's side.

Jacques Boissnot/The Canadian Press

Allegations of corruption and influence peddling continued to make headlines in Quebec this past week.

Only days after he fired his beleaguered family minister for using a credit card owned by a Montreal security firm, Jean Charest was faced with new allegations about another minister's dealings with the owner of the same company.

In the latest Liberal scandal, the opposition accused Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis of pressuring the provincial police to grant Luigi Coretti a licence to carry a firearm.

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Initially, Mr. Dupuis acknowledged he had met Mr. Coretti but denied that he had ever contacted the police on his behalf. After a La Presse investigation published last week found that the minister's office had, in fact, contacted the police, Mr. Dupuis revised his official statement and told reporters that he had not put any " undue" pressure on the police regarding Mr. Coretti's situation.

Le Soleil columnist Brigitte Breton doubted that Quebeckers would be inclined to believe Mr. Dupuis's version of events. She opined that the minister was not going to be able to get out of this one "simply by playing with words" and by claiming that he is an "honest man." With suspicions running high regarding Liberal Party financing and the ethics of the Charest government in question, Ms. Breton argued, "grey areas" of language and ethics will only add to the public's distrust.

In his column in La Presse, Patrick Lagacé wondered why Mr. Dupuis, "an experienced" politician who has generally shown good judgment in the past, would not have realized that "the simple fact of meeting with the kind of person who wants to walk around with a gun for no good reason is [politically]explosive, especially for a public security minister."

In a post to his blog, former PQ adviser Jean-Francois Lisée marvelled at how poorly the Liberals have handled repeated allegations of corruption and favouritism. He opined that Mr. Dupuis had managed to "dig himself deeper" by initially denying that he had ever contacted the police on behalf of Mr. Coretti. "It is more preferable to seem incompetent than to seem like a liar," Mr. Lisée wrote. He went on to recommend that the Liberals start following an important "unwritten" rule of politics: "When you get to the bottom of a hole, stop digging."

Charest announces new ethics code

On Thursday, Jean Charest announced plans for a new code of ethics for provincial and municipal politicians. He said he wants to get an ethics bill passed before the end of June.

Le Soleil columnist Gilbert Lavoie called the announcement "a step in the right direction" for Mr. Charest.

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In an op-ed published in Le Devoir, University of Montreal journalism professor Jean-Claude Leclerc doubted that a new code of ethics would be enough to regain the public's confidence. He argued that neither a code of ethics nor a public inquiry would be enough to "ease the public indignation" toward the Liberals. He went on to suggest that it might not be possible for the Liberals to repair their reputation as long as Mr. Charest is still leader.

Column of the Week

La Presse columnist Marie-Claude Lortie criticizes the absence of women on the team of professionals that have been asked to work for Bastarache commission on Quebec's process of nominating judges. Ms. Lortie is appalled that there is not a single woman on the commission's eight-person "senior" team. "It's right out of an episode of Mad Men," she writes.

Ms. Lortie quotes several female lawyers and politicians who are equally upset by the lack of women on the commission. She argues that beccause part of the commission's mandate is to find out "whether or not the appointment of judges in Quebec is a vast system of favouritism," it is especially important to put together a commission that doesn't look like "an old boys' club."

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