Premier Jean Charest and former justice minister Marc Bellemare, who have locked horns over the past year, are ending their duel after coming to a mutual agreement to drop their lawsuits against one another.
A source in the Premier's office confirmed the news after Mr. Bellemare said in a press release on Monday that he was withdrawing his suit against Mr. Charest and dropping legal proceedings to nullify the findings of a commission of inquiry into allegations of political interference in the nomination of Quebec judges.
Mr. Charest launched a $700,000 libel suit against Mr. Bellemare last spring after the former minister charged that the Premier had approved kickbacks and influence peddling by party fundraisers in the nomination of judges. The explosive allegations, which called into question the integrity of the province's justice system, led to the creation of the inquiry led by former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache and opposition accusations of bid rigging and favouritism against the Quebec Liberal Party. Mr. Bellemare responded with a $900,000 countersuit against Mr. Charest and a legal battle to discredit the Bastarache commission.
In his press release, Mr. Bellemare reiterated his demand for a full public inquiry into allegations of corruption involving the construction industry and its ties with the Quebec Liberal Party. He said that his comments had taken on "enormous proportions" and cost Quebec taxpayers millions of dollars.
"I believe Quebeckers have paid enough and that the Premier of Quebec should spend all his time and energy looking after the affairs of the government as he expressed in a statement made last Jan. 21," Mr. Bellemare said, referring to remarks from Mr. Charest at the time that he wanted to put the whole affair behind him.
Mr. Bellemare expressed no regret for the comments that sparked the major political debate in the province. He said he is convinced that most Quebeckers believed his version of the facts rather than the Bastarache commission's report, which exonerated Mr. Charest of any wrongdoing.
"I don't regret anything. I told the truth and I chose to serve the public interest. And I will continue to express my opinion on the conduct of the government affairs as it is the right of all citizens in a democracy," Mr. Bellemare stated.