The Coalition Avenir Québec is on the defensive over revelations that up to 14 of its candidates have been involved in personal or professional bankruptcies.
CAQ Leader François Legault confirmed on Sunday that a number of his 124 candidates underwent bankruptcy proceedings. However, he insisted that recent credit checks show they have all been "rehabilitated" and that all of their financial issues have been solved.
The matter is potentially embarrassing as the Mr. Legault has emphasized the business background of 49 of his 124 candidates in the Sept. 4 election, while heralding his team as being "incorruptible."
Mr. Legault has contrasted his team's experience with that of the Parti Québécois, which recruited a number of its candidates from the union sector.
Mr. Legault said that the number of bankruptcies along the CAQ's candidates – first circulated anonymously on social media – does not take anything away from the financial expertise of his team.
"When entrepreneurs take business risks, sometimes the result is positive, sometimes it is negative," he said.
Liberal Leader Jean Charest said he doesn't know what number of his own candidates may have declared bankruptcy in the past. "But I certainly don't think it's 14," he added.
"There are people who in their lifetime may have had some bad luck. That's part of life. It doesn't disqualify you from running," he said.
But, Mr. Charest added, Mr. Legault's portrayal of his team as the guardian of Quebec's finances with a deep wealth of business expertise means the public may judge by a higher standard, in his case.
Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois was careful not to make a huge thing out of the CAQ candidates who had previously declared bankruptcy. She said four or five of her own PQ candidates had, at one point, declared bankruptcy.
"This should not disqualify someone from seeking office," Ms. Marois said. "Sometimes events like this can happen in someone's life."
However, she took a swipe at the CAQ Leader, who has built part of his campaign on being a successful business accountant.
"When you present yourself as a successful business manager as Mr. Legault has done, he should choose his words more carefully," Ms. Marois said.
Mr. Legault was not happy to see information circulating about his candidates, although he said he was aware of the bankruptcies when he appointed them.
"All of our candidates have been rehabilitated, it's been settled, so it shouldn't be mentioned publicly," he said.
He pointed out that when he was the head of Air Transat, he hired pilot Robert Piché, who had a criminal record but was hailed as a hero for safely landing a jet that ran out of fuel over the Atlantic Ocean.
With reports from Les Perreaux and Rhéal Séguin