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The Globe and Mail

Charest downplays anti-corruption crusader's work

Quebec Premier Jean Charest speaks at a news conference during an election campaign stop at a community centre in Laval, Que., Friday, August 3, 2012.


Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest is taking credit for the anti-corruption work that was accomplished in recent years by Jacques Duchesneau, the former police chief who has now decided to run for a new party in the ongoing election campaign.

Mr. Charest refused to launch direct hits against Mr. Duchesneau on Saturday, saying that he was part of a team effort to combat fraud and collusion in the construction industry.

"Our government hired him, he produced a report and the report was useful as the government implemented his recommendations," Mr. Charest told reporters.

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Mr. Charest, however, made it clear that his party did not ask Mr. Duchesneau to run under the Quebec Liberal banner in this campaign. The statement confirmed the high level of personal tensions between Mr. Duchesneau and other members of the Liberal government in recent months.

"I have a team working on this issue, they will continue working on this issue. This is not a one-man endeavour," Mr. Charest said.

Overall, Mr. Charest continued to give himself a mark of eight out of 10 for his government's fight against corruption in the construction industry, pointing to eight laws that have been changed, included modifications to the political financing system.

The surprise arrival of Mr. Duchesneau in the race as a candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec, first reported by The Globe and Mail on Friday and expected to be made official on Sunday, has jolted the campaign and immediately raised the profile of the third-place party in the race.

Mr. Duchesneau was hired by the Liberals in 2010 to propose ways to prevent collusion in the construction industry. Fearing his report was destined for government shelves 18 months later, he leaked it to Radio-Canada. The ensuing political firestorm forced the Charest government to launch a commission of inquiry into corruption, which it had long resisted.

As a witness at the Charbonneau Commission in the spring, Mr. Duchesneau alleged that up to 70 per cent of the party financing in Quebec involved dirty money.

Mr. Charest said that Mr. Duchesneau and CAQ Leader François Legault will have questions to answer on that front, pointing out that Mr. Legault was long involved with the Parti Québécois.

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Mr. Charest also gave himself a mark of eight out of 10 for his government's handling of the healthcare system on Thursday. He now seems to be finished with grading his own work and will await the verdict of Quebeckers on election day.

"On Sept. 4, we'll get the final markings," he said.

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