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Tomassi charges another blow to Montreal borough - and Charest

In a community already shaken by its mayor's allegations of collusion and corruption in municipal contracts, Rivière-des-Prairies has been further jolted after its MNA was charged with fraud and breach of trust.

Three criminal charges laid on Tuesday against Tony Tomassi, who was forced to resign as Family Minister and ousted from the Liberal caucus in May, 2010, were another blow to Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government.

Mr. Tomassi's Montreal riding of Lafontaine includes the borough of Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles, where mayor Chantal Rouleau recently made allegations of bid-rigging on municipal contracts by companies with ties to organized crime.

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In her letter, the mayor asked Mr. Charest for a public inquiry into the construction industry, joining a chorus of groups who have made similar demands for over 30 months.

The criminal charges against Mr. Tomassi are unrelated to the construction industry, but have fuelled concerns in the community.

"People here are quite concerned that their MNA faces criminal charges," said Ms. Rouleau's spokesperson, Marc-Antoine Pouliot. "I don't know if people want him to resign. ... But any time you have allegations of corruption involving elected officials, it breeds a sense of mistrust."

The Premier, who has just completed a 10-day visit to France and Spain, has yet to comment on the charges against his former minister.

Mr. Tomassi was appointed minister in December, 2008, and came under police investigation over allegations that he used a gas company credit card that belonged to the now-bankrupt BCIA securities firm in Montreal. The province's anti-corruption squad said the investigation is on-going and that others could be charged.

BCIA owner Luigi Coretti has close ties with Mr. Tomassi and the Quebec Liberal Party. The company received several million dollars in government contracts and a $4-million subsidy from a regional development fund.

Just before he left cabinet, opposition parties accused Mr. Tomassi of awarding of private daycare contracts to Liberal supporters.

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Mr. Tomassi is expected to enter a plea in the Quebec Superior Court on Nov. 14. Each of the three criminal charges carry a maximum five-year prison term. It was the first time criminal charges have been laid against an MNA since 1983.

Opposition members want Mr. Tomassi to give up his seat. Should he refuse, Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir said he might table a motion calling for Mr. Tomassi's dismissal from the National Assembly.

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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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