McLean's declares Quebec 'most corrupt province'
MONTREAL - Quebec Premier Jean Charest may have saved his political reputation this week, but the province's reputation has taken a very public beating.
Charest finished his second day of testimony Friday at a public inquiry looking into alleged judge-rigging in the province relatively unscathed.
But national news magazine Maclean's emblazoned its latest cover with the headline: "The most corrupt province in Canada," and accompanied it with an image of the Quebec City carnival mascot holding a briefcase stuffed with cash.
It's the second story looking into corruption in the province the magazine has run in recent months. It's created a flap in the province, and the head of the carnival is demanding an apology.
If Charest thought calling the inquiry -- headed by former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache -- would deflect attention from a string of scandals plaguing his government as opposition parties allege, he was wrong.
The Liberals have been plagued by allegations of corruption and collusion with the construction industry and have faced questions over construction contracts and criticism over the allocation of subsidized daycare permits being sold for profit. As well, Family Minister Tony Tomassi was fired when it was revealed he used a credit card owned by a private security firm during his time in office.
harest, nevertheless, maintained a confident demeanour when he was grilled Friday by Jean-Francois Bertrand, the lawyer for former justice minister Marc Bellemare, who claims the premier pressured him to appoint Liberal-friendly lawyers to the bench.
Bertrand attacked Charest on his practice of discussing judicial nominations with his justice ministers.
The premier maintained he never manipulated the judicial process, despite having seen the nomination lists for potential new judges.
In Thursday's testimony, the premier challenged Bellemare's allegations point-by-point and denied Bellemare had ever approached him to say he had been pressured by fundraisers.
It remains to be seen whether Charest's calm and collected testimony will shift Quebecers to his side.
Last week, a Leger Marketing poll indicated 58% of Quebecers thought Bellemare was telling the truth while just 14% believed him.
The same survey suggested 45% of respondents said they could change their minds following the premier's testimony.
Testimony at the commission continues Monday.