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Media, Commentators, Should Spend More Time and Energy Start Asking Serious Questions of Philippe Couillard and the Quebec Liberal Party

Move over Quebec Charter of Values…there’s a new scandal in town! This time, it’s in the form of more corruption being found in the Quebec Liberal Party and Philippe Couillard is in the hot seat!  As well he should, for more than one reason. While many journos, pundits and other commentators are still arguing over whether or not hijabs, crosses and kippahs can or cannot be worn while working for the public sector, it seems that the Quebec Liberal Party is once again in hot water…far more serious than a Charter of values, however flawed it may be.  While it’s getting some coverage, some still persist in arguing of the Charter of values. They shouldn’t right now.

UPAC or Operation Marteau as it’s known at times  raided the Quebec Liberal Party headquarters in July.  Nobody seems to really know the details given that the warrant was sealed toute de suite after the raid. The Quebec Liberals were supposed to hash this out in court yesterday .  Among other things, it appears that a 6-term Liberal MNA, Pierre Marsan had taken it upon himself to write a letter to members of the Sephardic Jewish community

The incident involving Liberal MNA Pierre Marsan’s letter to the Association sépharade de la banlieue ouest de Montréal is obviously not as serious as the raid on Liberal headquarters.

And that’s even though the chief electoral officer has undertaken a preliminary “verification” to determine whether Marsan and his fundraising chairman, who co-signed the letter, broke the law by soliciting contributions from a group instead of individual voters.

The Charest government got into trouble for favouring Liberal contributors with daycare permits.

Yet Marsan’s letter unabashedly recalls that “your association was able to take advantage of generous contributions and (a) daycare permit” under the Liberals.

Silly M. Marsan, haven’t we learned anything from the Tony Tomassi situation, which I believe is still before the courts?

And what was the good Dr. Couillard’s response to this raid? While he called Marsan’s actions “unacceptable”, his response to the raids was pretty much dismissive and arrogant to say the least. For a guy who swore he wanted to clean up the  party and do things differently,  his response hardly got him credibility.  He basically pulled out a bad imitation of Sgt. Schultz:

Commenting on the July raid, which he did not disclose to all the Liberal MNAs at the time, Couillard said none of his MNAs were questioned and he does not know whom the raids targeted.

“Not only I don’t know, but I don’t want to know,” Couillard said. “I don’t want to get involved in police investigations.”

Asked why he did not disclose the raid, Couillard said he knew it would eventually become public, but said, switching to English, it was a case of, “Damned if you do, damned it you don’t.”

Well, well, well! It appears that the good doctor didn’t feel it necessary to inform the rest of his party.  Now what kind of leadership is that?  I believe he is emulating Stevie Spiteful.

Unfortunately for the good doctor, he is beginning to learn that it ain’t quite that easy. He received some surprise guests for breakfast in the form of the UPAC cops last Wednesday .  Later, he would go before the press where his answers were really not that much better.

“I want the people who broke our laws, no matter what party they are associated with, to assume the consequences of their acts,” Couillard said, calling on the other Quebec parties to “show the same level of transparency.”

Very good! But, when boxed into a corner, he’d have to say that.  However, if that were true, how come ol’ Petey Marsan was not, at the very least, booted from Liberal reindeer games at the National Assembly?  Tony Tomassi got the boot and is now facing criminal charges for similar acts.  After all, ol’ Petey Marsan represents a West-Island riding of Robert-Baldwin where the Liberals can run a ham sandwich and they’d win — no loss of seat there.  Of course, to be fair, it’s only been 3 business days and perhaps we’ll hear of his sudden “resignation”  sometime in the weeks to come.  But still, for a leader who wants to run a clean ship and do things differently, one would think he’d have expeditiously throw ol’ Petey under the bus.

I might add that if the good doctor were really serious about transparency and cleaning house, he’d have started in his own backyard and at least have told his party that their club house had been raided last July.  Not good.

It should be added that UPAC is investigating other prominent Liberals,  one of whom, being former Liberal MNA for the Gaspesie riding of Bonaventure and Johnny Charest’s former deputy premier, Nathalie Normandeau, who resigned from politics long before the last election, citing “personal reasons”.  Yeah, right. I’m sure we’re about to find out what those “personal reasons” are in due time.

Dr. Philippe Couillard may have been out of Liberal reindeer games for about 5 years before becoming leader, but he will learn that he cannot detach himself from the latest round of scandals from his party. As Paul Martin learned the hard way  after taking over the Federal Liberals from Jean Chretien, the good doctor will have to take ownership of this. He inherited this mess and he’ll have to do something about it and frankly, as I’ve pointed out, he is not off to a great start.

Boys n girls, I think it also bears reminding that the good doctor needs to be more deeply examined.  He has ethical baggage of his own.  In 2007, while Johnny Charest’s health minister, introduced Bill 33 in 2007, following the Chaoulli V the Gov’t of Quebec supreme court decision in 2005 . Bill 33 further opened la belle province to the dreaded “2-tiered health care” which now has led us to being the capital of private for profit health care. Here are some of the loopholes that Bill 33 allowed for. Boys n girls, I urge you to read this pdf which I just linked to. We’re seeing many of these loopholes in action today.

In 2008, just a few months before Couillard resigned from the National Assembly, we would begin seeing that Bill 33 looking to serve the good doctor’s own personal and business interests.  We all knew he left in order to become a partner in a company that invests in private for profit health care in just under 2 months of resigning his post of health minister .

“À titre de ministre, il a contribué à mettre en place un certain nombre de décisions qui favorisent l’essor du privé. Deux mois après avoir été le parrain de ces initiatives, il se place dans une situation où il va pouvoir en profiter personnellement, estime le porte-parole du Parti québécois en santé, Bernard Drainville. La décision qu’il a pris ne respecte pas l’esprit de la loi, qui est de s’assurer que quelqu’un qui a eu accès à des informations privilégiées ne s’en serve pas à des fins lucratives.”

(“As minister, he helped make a number of decisions that furthered the development of the private [sector]. Two months after being the sponsor of these initiatives, he’s put himself in a situation where he will personally profit. His decision [to take the PCP job] doesn’t respect the spirit of the law, which is to ensure that someone with access to privileged information doesn’t use it to make money.”)

Think whatever you like about Bernard Drainville’s Charter of Values, but I am asking you to separate that from his statement made in 2008 reacting to the good doctor’s move.  Drainville is correct here. The good doctor, as former health minister, was privy to information that would’ve helped his new company.

Furthermore, it appears that the good doctor was in negotiations with the company he became a partner in while still sitting as health minister .

Mr. Couillard was in negotiations for two months with his eventual employer, Persistance Capital Partners (PCP), a shareholder in the private health firm Medisys, before he announced his resignation in August 2008. While the ethics commissioner cleared him of any ethical breach and the government executive committee had given him the go-ahead to launch negotiations, the departure has been a cloud over his head ever since.

Oops!

The ethics commissioner may have cleared him of wrong doing back in the day, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t unethical.  What do we not know?  I think both UPAC and the Charbonneau Inquiry should take a deeper look into this.  At the very least, it does look like that perhaps the good doctor was acting on behalf of private for profit health care  lobbyists.

What’s more, the good doctor’s ties with Arthur Porter should be further examined.

Mr. Couillard, who was Liberal health minister from 2003 until he left for the private sector in 2008, has said they struck up a friendship soon after Dr. Porter arrived at McGill in 2004. The pair would later serve together on the federal Security Intelligence Review Committee and on the board of a mining company…

Here’s a clearly illustrated timeline of Arty Porter’s activities .  Couillard detached himself from any association with Porter and claimed he was fooled by him, but basically, any kind of association with Arty Porter in any shape or form is akin to being seen having dinner or going fishing with Tony Accurso.  Something both Couillard and Stevie should know by now.

Let’s also remember that ol’ Arty Porter, when head of the MUHC was accused to taking kickbacks, which is said to have paved the way for the $1.3 billion dollar contract with the scandal plagued SNC-Lavalin to build the new MUHC super hospital .  This took place after Couillard resigned as health minister and of course, he has since downplayed his “friendship” / association with Arty Porter and denounced his activities.  Again, that would be the politically expedient thing to say when you’re hoping to be premier  or leader of a party. However, according to an interview with La Presse, before the good doctor was elected leader, Arty Porter  left this rather cryptic quote:

“I don’t like to smear people. But if I opened up my papers, I could cause quite a fuss in Canada.”

Arty said this after expressing disappointment in Couillard’s response.  True that Arty Porter, like any man about to be condemned, would say anything and whatever that may be, should be taken with a cue ball of salt. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything damning to say.  Whatever those “papers” may contain, I don’t imagine Arty will reveal anything until he and/or his lawyers feel a need for him to do so, assuming, of course, he has any information of value that can be corroborated somehow.

Yes, Philippe Couillard claims to want to run a clean party and a clean government, but it must start with himself.  Journalists, pundits and other commentators should spend more time examining the man who wants to be our premier and less time on the circus that is the Quebec Charter of Values.  If, as many a commentator says that we should be concentrating on the economy at this time, along with cleaning up government, then perhaps they should be doing just that and start asking the tough questions that need to be asked.  Things like collusion most certainly do not help the economy in addition to breaking trust with our government, whoever it may be.

If Couillard was really serious about doing things differently and cleaning house,  his attitude toward the raid on the Liberal Party headquarters certainly leaves much to be desired and should leave us with more questions about his sincerity or lack thereof along with his intentions.  The fact that Pierre Marsan has not been kicked to the curb yet is concerning.

Furthermore, even though the ethics commissioner cleared the good doctor of wrongdoing while he was negotiating his partnership with Persistance Capital Partners while still sitting as health minister, we have seen how private for profit when it is supported by government, can lead to corruption and this must be looked at further.

Given Couillard’s launch of Bill 33 in 2007 as health minister, just one year before his negotians with PCP and subsequent resignation as health minister, we have to ask ourselves what were really his motives behind tabling Bill 33.  Given his  lobbying activities with the private for profit health care system, one has to wonder if we can really trust him with health care if he becomes premier of la belle province, regardless of who he appoints as his health minister.

Speaking of which,  while Couillard had already left as health minister by the time Porter was doing his damage at the MUHC, his health critic and successor as health minister in Johnny Charest’s government was. Questions have been asked about the MUHC construction of the super hospital and the Quebec Liberal Party , more specifically, Charest gov’t and Arthur Porter.

Was it Porter who got the Liberal government to let the MUHC project go ahead?

And if it was, how did he do it?

Those questions mentioned above along with many others must be answered, particularly if there is an election and Couillard and the Quebec Liberal party somehow eke out a government, it is likely that Bolduc would be appointed health minister yet again, under Couillard, assuming that Bolduc runs and wins again in the next election.  Regardless, the very fact that he is keeping Bolduc as health critic has to make us wonder if Couillard is really serious about doing things differently?

And yes, governments are subsidizing private for profit clinics.  For example, many of them do work for the Regie d’automobile du Quebec (RAQ) and CSST (Commission de sante et securite de travail).  This at the expense of public health care.

It must be added that if we aspire to have a strong economy, a good universal health care system is essential to achieving this goal. After all, if many are sick and/or injured cannot get help because they can’t afford it, they cannot work and if they cannot work, they don’t pay taxes nor do they have much in the way of purchasing power. Purchasing power and ability to work, thus ability to pay taxes are vital to a strong economy, a no brainer, really.

Again, if media, pundits and other commentators were serious about discussing transparency in government and the economy, they should be focusing more Philippe Couillard’s past, his attitude toward the situation in which he and his party find themselves in and what are his intentions should he become premier?  Then again, perhaps the Charter of Quebec Values is a gift for the good doctor Philippe Couillard after all.

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