The husband of Premier Pauline Marois, Claude Blanchet, says he and his wife are the target of a “misleading, untrue, malicious and defamatory campaign” by opposition parties stemming from allegations made at the Charbonneau commission into corruption in Quebec.
For first time since allegations of influence peddling were made against him last month at commission hearings, Mr. Blanchet has publicly rejected the charges.
Wiretaps from 2009 produced at the inquiry revealed that the former president of the Quebec Federation of Labour, Michel Arsenault, and former QFL-Construction boss Jean Lavallée discussed using their business ties with Mr. Blanchet to persuade Ms. Marois, then PQ opposition leader, to stop calling for an inquiry into allegations of corruption and mob infiltration in the province’s construction industry.
The union leaders referred to a “deal” they had with Mr. Blanchet involving a QFL-Solidarity Fund investment in one of his real estate businesses, Capital BLF Inc.
The Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec have demanded Mr. Blanchet explain publicly the nature of the so-called “deal,” suggesting he received special treatment in return for persuading his wife to back off demands for a public inquiry.
The CAQ has said the QFL Solidarity Fund paid $0.30 a share for Capital BLF Inc., three times what Mr. Blanchet originally paid.
In a press release on Friday, Mr. Blanchet called the allegations “a serious attack on his reputation and integrity and by implication that of his spouse.”
In the press release, Mr. Blanchet said that in April, 2007, he bought 1,650,000 shares in the company at $0.10 a share, 15 months before the QFL Solidarity Fund purchased its shares. In March, 2008, Mr. Blanchet said, he bought another 1,667,000 shares at $0.30 a share. Four months, later the fund purchased nearly 10 million shares at the same price. “At that date, the Parti Québécois formed neither the government nor the official opposition,” Mr. Blanchet said.
In December, 2009, both Mr. Blanchet and the Solidarity Fund bought more shares in Capital BLF Inc., at $0.75 a share. This was three months after the PQ had begun pressing the former Liberal government to hold a public inquiry into the construction industry.
“At no time did Mr. Blanchet benefit from more favourable terms in the purchasing of the shares than those that existed on the market. ….Under no consideration did he directly or indirectly participate in an alleged operation aimed at influencing anyone,” the press release stated.
Mr. Blanchet said he will make no further comments and gave no indication whether he plans to launch a libel suit against those who made the allegations.
His comments come as the PQ is considering calling an election and might help diffuse opposition parties’ attempts to undermine Ms. Marois’ integrity.