Jacques Duchesneau, the vocal anti-corruption crusader whose outspoken style led to the creation of the Charbonneau Commission announced he is quitting politics.
Mr. Duchesneau who was elected under the Coalition Avenir Quebec party banner in September 2012 said he was disappointed his ideas failed to reach people and that he no longer had it in him to continue the political fight within the CAQ caucus.
“I felt like I’m betraying the team. It’s simply that I can’t take it anymore,” Mr. Duchesneau said in a news conference on Wednesday.
The CAQ scored a major prize in the last election campaign when it attracted Mr. Duchesneau who quickly became the party’s star candidate. He had championed the anti-corruption crusade when as head of the anti-collusion squad at the Ministry of Transportation he uncovered irregularities in the awarding of government contracts and warned that organized crime was at the government’s doorsteps.
When he tabled a report in September 2011 on the alleged corruption in the awarding of road construction and maintenance contracts, Mr. Duchesneau revealed that kickbacks to political parties had become common practice in the industry. The revelations forced then Liberal premier Jean Charest to appoint the Charbonneau Commission into corruption in the construction industry after resisting calls for such a probe for more than two years.
Mr. Duchesneau’s decision to run for the CAQ changed the dynamics of the last campaign. It was perceived as a turning point that helped the party leader François Legault elect 19 members with 27-per cent of the popular vote. His presence turned momentum away from the PQ and undermined leader Pauline Marois’ chances of forming a majority government.
But since the election the CAQ has lost significant popular support, dropping to below the 20-per cent mark. If it fails to overturn the current trend the CAQ may be reduced to a handful of seats. The loss of Duchesneau will do little to help Mr. Legault turn the tide in the upcoming campaign.
Before leaving Mr. Duchesneau criticized the Charbonneau Commission for failing to tackle alleged corrupt practices that existed in the Ministry of Transportation.
“Why is it that the Commission is caught up in this bottleneck that is preventing it from talking about the Ministry of Transportation?... It would be disappointing that after doing all that work in order to denounce a situation at the Ministry of Transportation that little would be said about it (at the Commission),” Mr. Duchesneau said.
Even without Mr. Duchesneau the CAQ was still determined to make the issue of integrity a key element of its election platform. It continues to demand that Ms. Marois and her husband Claude Blanchet appear before a National Assembly committee to explain what Mr. Legault perceives as a dubious business transaction involving a family owned company and the Quebec Federation of Labour Solidarity Fund. Details of the business transaction were revealed at the Charbonneau Commission. Mr. Blanchet has denied any wrongdoing.