Liberals react to illegal fundraising accusations
Quebec's former deputy premier is defending herself and dismissing the idea that her integrity could be compromised by a few dozen roses and Celine Dion concert tickets.
Nathalie Normandeau has issued a curt statement following explosive allegations at the province's ongoing corruption inquiry.
The former Liberal deputy premier, now out of politics, says she was never influenced by gifts delivered by a onetime construction boss; star witness Lino Zambito had told the inquiry that he sent Normandeau 40 red roses on her 40th birthday, as well as concert tickets.
"I will reaffirm that I always did my work with rigor while remaining conscious of the importance of honouring citizens' trust," Normandeau said in a statement released Wednesday.
"I will not let anyone call into question my integrity."
She is the same high-ranking politician who called a news conference to condemn Maclean's magazine when it ran a cover two years ago that called Quebec Canada's most corrupt province, illustrated by an image of Bonhomme Carnaval holding a briefcase stuffed with cash.
Normandeau also denied knowing anything about illegal fundraising.
Zambito told the inquiry that, while organizing an event headlined by Normandeau, he pumped money through third-party intermediaries to circumvent Quebec's electoral contribution limits.
Normandeau says that doesn't mean she did anything wrong.
"Like many of my ministerial colleagues I was asked to participate in fundraising activities," Normandeau said in her statement.
"Over the years I took part in dozens of these events and did so all across Quebec. That being said, I never participated in organizing these activities."
Other Liberals were left defending their party's reputation Wednesday.
The party's interim leader said he had spoken with party officials and was assured that illegal fundraising tactics were never used or tolerated.
Jean-Marc Fournier said he also asked party officials to examine whether new control mechanisms might be necessary to ensure donations are clean.
Fournier said the party will also be seeking participant status before the inquiry. He urged that the inquiry be allowed to conduct its work before conclusions are drawn.
None of Zambito's allegations have been proven in court.
Photo: Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press