Premier Jean Charest was informed of the political allegiance of candidates for the Quebec judiciary, the public inquiry into the nomination of judges in the province has heard.
As the Bastarache commission began another week of hearings on Monday, it also heard that the agenda of former justice minister Marc Bellemare had surfaced over the weekend. The records of the former minister, whose allegations that provincial Liberal fundraisers had influence over the selection of judges gave rise to the inquiry, were entered as evidence.
According to one of Mr. Bellemare's lawyers, Rénald Beaudry, the agenda was recorded on a computer disc and found by the former minister's wife, Lu Chan Khong, in a box containing souvenirs and letters. The agenda, according to the lawyer, will corroborate Mr. Bellemare's version of events - that he met with Mr. Charest on Sept. 2, 2003, and told the Premier about "collosal" lobbying by party fundraisers to nominate Liberal supporters to the bench.
Last week Mr. Charest testified that the meeting never took place and entered as proof his own agenda, which contained no mention of a meeting with Mr. Bellemare that day.
In testimony on Monday the commission, headed by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache, heard from a key member of the Premier's office. Chantal Landry, whose official job title was "person responsible for relations with the Quebec Liberal Party," testified that although her job description did not include judicial nominations, she would nonetheless write the political allegiances of candidates for judicial appointments before handing the file over to Mr. Charest for his recommendation.
"If I knew their political allegiance I would indicate it on a 'Post-it' to inform the Premier," Ms. Landry told the inquiry. " If I had the information, I thought it was important to tell him."
Ms. Landry said she doesn't recall indicating the political allegiance of the three appointments to the Quebec Court that have been at the centre of the inquiry. According to Mr. Bellemare, the nominations of Marc Bisson, Line Gosselin-Després and Michel Simard were subject to influence by senior Liberal fundraisers Franco Fava and Charles Rondeau.
Quebec Court judges are nominated by a selection committee made up of a judge, a lawyer and a representative of the public. The committee interviews the potential candidates and determines who gets on the short list. The names are then submitted to the minister of justice who, operating under tight confidentiality rules, makes a recommendation to cabinet.
Since becoming Premier, Mr. Charest has asked to see the short list himself in order to make his own recommendation to the justice minister. The list comes to him via Ms. Landry, the commission heard. Ms. Landry testified that on two occasions in 2007 she sent the short list of candidates to public security minister Jacques Dupuis to seek his advice about nominees. Mr. Bellemare's lawyers suggested yesterday that this is a breach of the confidentiality rules.
Ms. Landry explained that she was never informed about the rules governing the selection of judges.