Jabs and accusations during 2nd Quebec TV election debate

photo: TVA

The leaders of Quebec's main political parties held their second televised debate Thursday, with three of them ganging up on perceived front-runner Philippe Couillard on integrity issues.

The Liberals' Couillard was attacked on various fronts by Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, Coalition chief Francois Legault and Francoise David of Quebec solidaire.

A poll conducted earlier this week had the Liberals leading the PQ ahead of the April 7 general election.

Couillard was grilled extensively during the debate about his ties to Arthur Porter, a former hospital administrator who now faces fraud charges in connection with a scandal-plagued contract to build a large Montreal hospital.

He and Porter were appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the committee that monitors Canada's spy agency, and they also ran a consulting business together.

Couillard took issue with being mentioned in the same breath as Porter.

"He's someone I knew but to associate me in any way whatsoever with what he's accused of doing is unacceptable, unacceptable,'' the Liberal leader said during the debate on the TVA network.

"I wasn't even around him when the contract was handed out.''

David then went after Couillard following a Radio-Canada report that he placed $600,000 in an offshore tax haven while practising as a neurosurgeon in Saudi Arabia well before embarking on his political career.

Couillard repeated there was nothing illegal about the account at a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada based in Jersey, in the Channel Islands between England and France.

"I respected all the tax laws,'' he said. ``Upon my return to Canada, I paid all the requisite taxes.''

Couillard was also challenged on a report that $428,150 in Liberal party financing is still unaccounted for.

"It doesn't exist,'' the Liberal leader said. ``There is no fundraising event that can raise such a sum.''

Marois had to deal with integrity issues of her own amid boasts that her government has attacked corruption since coming to power 18 months ago.

The PQ leader was questioned about possible dealings between her husband, Claude Blanchet, and the province's largest labour federation.

The controversy revolves around a 2009 wiretap that was played recently at the provincial corruption inquiry that hints at an arrangement between Blanchet and the Quebec Federation of Labour.

The recording captures Michel Arsenault, who was then president of the labour federation, saying he was ready to enlist the aid of the PQ to help thwart a corruption probe and that the labour union had a ``deal with Blanchet.''

"The PQ won't touch this,'' Arsenault is heard telling another union boss. ``I'll talk to Pauline.''

Marois was in opposition at the time of the recording.

She told the televised debate what she has repeated over and over since the testimony: there was no deal.

"Mr. Arsenault told the Charbonneau Commission that when he met me, he ran into a wall, a brick wall,'' she said. ``I can assure you that there was no deal.''


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  1. S.Lloyd posted on 03/28/2014 07:27 AM
    Mudslinging at its best.... who cares about issues like health care, education, infrastructures to name a few? We want lower taxes, better medical services, freedom to drive the streets without being killed by falling cement. I am more afraid of passing under an overpass that being served by a hijab wearing civil servant.
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