AG to probe al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion by UPAC, AMF

Ouel­lette says his ar­rest was de­lib­er­ate plan to in­tim­i­date other MNAs

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - PHILIP AUTHIER Jesse Feith of the Mon­treal Gazette contributed to this re­port. pau­thier@post­ twit­­pau­thier

With politicians on all QUE­BEC sides call­ing for Guy Ouel­lette to be heard, the gov­ern­ment Mon­day an­nounced it is send­ing in au­di­tors to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion be­tween the anti-cor­rup­tion unit and Que­bec’s fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tor.

As the Na­tional As­sem­bly strug­gles to get a grip on bomb­shell al­le­ga­tions made by Ouel­lette and a whistle­blower, An­nie Trudel, who al­leged the col­lu­sion, three Couil­lard cabi­net min­is­ters scram­bled into ac­tion, hold­ing a news con­fer­ence in Mon­treal say­ing they are tak­ing the sit­u­a­tion “very, very se­ri­ously.”

“Our con­cern is to main­tain the trust and con­fi­dence of Que­be­cers in their in­sti­tu­tions,” said Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Martin Coi­teux, one of the three min­is­ters sent to bat. “And when you read things like this in the news­pa­per, when you lis­ten to al­le­ga­tions (like th­ese to­day), that con­fi­dence may be shaken.”

Not only is the province’s au­di­tor gen­eral be­ing sent in, Coi­teux has also called a halt for now to the adop­tion of new leg­is­la­tion, Bill 107, de­signed to in­crease UPAC’s pow­ers and in­de­pen­dence by mak­ing it a spe­cial­ized anti-cor­rup­tion po­lice force.

He specif­i­cally said he wants to take the time to beef up clauses that would im­pose ac­count­abil­ity on UPAC — the same agency Ouel­lette claims is so ob­sessed with its own power that it is stalk­ing him and Trudel and try­ing to in­tim­i­date politicians who ques­tion the way it op­er­ates.

Ouel­lette specif­i­cally fin­gers the pres­i­dent of UPAC, Robert Lafrenière, with whom he has been quar­relling for months. Un­til his ar­rest by UPAC last Wed­nes­day as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into leaks, Ouel­lette was chair­man of the leg­is­la­ture’s pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions com­mit­tee, which over­looks UPAC’s work.

This brought him into di­rect con­flict with Lafrenière on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, a prob­lem that again dropped into Coi­teux’s lap Mon­day af­ter me­dia rev­e­la­tions. Asked if he was still con­fi­dent in UPAC and Lafrenière, Coi­teux said he saw no rea­son not to be, but his an­swer was tem­pered, a sig­nal to Ouel­lette that he has heard his mes­sage.

“Yes, I have con­fi­dence, but at the same time, I want to make sure ev­ery­thing is trans­par­ent,” Coi­teux an­swered. “Que­be­cers will have le­git­i­mate ques­tions and those ques­tions need to be an­swered.

“In­de­pen­dence doesn’t mean you don’t have to be trans­par­ent.”

Ouel­lette — the MNA for Chomedey and a for­mer Sûreté du Québec in­ves­ti­ga­tor — has been push­ing for Bill 107 to in­clude in­ter­na­tional ISO anti-cor­rup­tion stan­dards de­signed to quash bribery and eth­i­cal breaches, but Lafrenière has been re­sist­ing.

At the end of his tether fol­low­ing the ar­rest, Ouel­lette granted an in­ter­view with 98.5 FM ra­dio. Recorded Fri­day, it was broad­cast Mon­day.

“The events of this week lead me to be­lieve that UPAC will do ev­ery­thing it can to muz­zle me — muz­zle a par­lia­men­tar­ian — so I can­not give my ver­sion or in­form the pop­u­la­tion of all the in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics which are un­der­way now in this same unit,” Ouel­lette said.

Ouel­lette granted the in­ter­view af­ter he and Trudel sought refuge in Co­geco’s Mon­treal of­fices af­ter re­al­iz­ing they were be­ing fol­lowed by po­lice af­ter they had a meet­ing down­town.

Ouel­lette and Trudel said they feared they would soon both be stopped by po­lice, so he wanted to get his story out. Trudel al­leges she, too, was briefly ar­rested by po­lice and ques­tioned about the de­struc­tion of ev­i­dence, but the mat­ter was dropped and she walked away.

Nei­ther Ouel­lette nor Trudel have been charged with any­thing.

Ouel­lette told host Bernard Drainville what hap­pened to him last Wed­nes­day was part of a UPAC plan to tar­nish his im­age. Why else would the me­dia have been tipped off in ad­vance? he said.

“Never in 100 years would I have be­lieved I could have been framed like I was framed,” Ouel­lette said. “In 2017, I never thought it could hap­pen to an elected of­fi­cial. I guess I am prob­a­bly both­er­ing the com­mis­sioner and his in­sti­tu­tion.”

While Ouel­lette flatly de­nied be­ing the source of leaks to the Que­becor me­dia chain, he said he is con­vinced his ar­rest was a de­lib­er­ate plan to in­tim­i­date other MNAs who might ask too many ques­tions.

“Do you think the 124 other MNAs are not shak­ing in their boots at the prospect of ask­ing UPAC ques­tions?” Ouel­lette said. “They (UPAC) brought down the chair­man of the in­sti­tu­tions com­mis­sion.”

Go­ing fur­ther, he charged that UPAC forced the gov­ern­ment’s hand to re­new Lafrenière’s man­date by ar­rest­ing for­mer Lib­eral cabi­net min­is­ter Nathalie Nor­man­deau on the same day as the 20162017 pro­vin­cial bud­get as a sign of its power. Lafrenière’s re­newal was up for dis­cus­sion a few days later.

Ouel­lette said it is no co­in­ci­dence that he was ar­rested just days af­ter he handed Premier Philippe Couil­lard an eight-page anal­y­sis in which he sug­gested the new UPAC be sub­ject to the ISO anti-cor­rup­tion code it­self.

The com­ments again rocked Que­bec’s po­lit­i­cal class, but Coi­teux said the gov­ern­ment isn’t con­sid­er­ing sus­pend­ing UPAC’s ac­tiv­i­ties, or Lafrenière, while the al­le­ga­tions are be­ing ver­i­fied.

“We’re tak­ing the al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ously and tak­ing care of them to en­sure the trust of the pop­u­la­tion,” he said. “But that does not call into ques­tion the work done by UPAC and the in­ves­ti­ga­tions that are un­der­way.”

Trudel, who made her name ex­pos­ing prob­lems in the Trans­port Que­bec min­istry as an in­de­pen­dent an­a­lyst, had her own block­buster rev­e­la­tions, which also put her un­der the UPAC’s search­lights.

Trudel told the Jour­nal de Mon­tréal Mon­day the rea­son Ouel­lette was ar­rested is be­cause he was about to make rev­e­la­tions about a con­nec­tion be­tween UPAC, l’Au­torité des marchés fi­nanciers (AMF) and a firm of pri­vate con­sul­tants.

Trudel does not iden­tify the firm, but al­leges col­lu­sion be­tween it and firms seek­ing gov­ern­ment con­tracts.

Since 2013, firms seek­ing to bid on gov­ern­ment con­tracts have to get clear­ance from the AMF. But ac­cord­ing to Trudel, two com­pa­nies seek­ing AMF clear­ance were re­ferred to the con­sul­tants.

The firm charges astro­nom­i­cal fees, Trudel told the pa­per, in one case $600,000 and another $1 mil­lion.

Re­ac­tion was swift. In a strongly worded press re­lease mid-morn­ing Mon­day, the AMF said it was “cat­e­gor­i­cally deny­ing all al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion.”

“Th­ese al­le­ga­tions are not only false and to­tally gra­tu­itous, they stain the rep­u­ta­tion and in­tegrity of ev­ery­one work­ing at the AMF,” the state­ment said.

UPAC was main­tain­ing ra­dio si­lence Mon­day, but Ouel­lette’s rev­e­la­tions and the idea a sit­ting MNA could be in­tim­i­dated set off alarm bells at the leg­is­la­ture.

Late Mon­day, Parti Québé­cois house leader Pas­cal Bérubé said the PQ will present a mo­tion Tues­day that, if adopted, would al­low Ouel­lette — who now sits as an in­de­pen­dent with lim­ited speak­ing rights — to ad­dress the leg­is­la­ture.


Guy Ouel­lette said in a ra­dio in­ter­view that what hap­pened to him last Wed­nes­day was part of a UPAC plan to tar­nish his im­age. Why else would the me­dia have been tipped off in ad­vance? he said.

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