Not any more

Charest told me to keep quiet: Bellemare

In Canada on August 26, 2010 at 08:59

Marc Bellemare said on Wednesday that Quebec Premier Jean Charest told him to keep quiet about the rigging of judicial nominations the day the former justice minister announced he was resigning in 2004.

It was the second explosive and damaging claim Mr. Bellemare had made in as many days of testimony before a commission investigating allegations of influence peddling in the appointing of Quebec judges.

He spent the morning zigzagging around pointed questions about allegations he made on Tuesday that Mr. Charest personally ordered him to name two people to the bench because a party fundraiser wanted them to be made judges.

He was unable to produce any documents as proof, saying he never takes notes because he has a good memory.

"I’m not vengeful toward Mr. Charest," Mr. Bellemare testified. "When I left politics, I told him I didn’t have the intention to do things that could be prejudicial or to launch a guerrilla war.

"[Mr. Charest] was very nervous. He told me: ‘You know you have a ministerial oath. Fava, Rondeau, the judges, the cash, it doesn’t exist. You don’t have the right to talk about that."

Franco Fava and Charles Rondeau are prominent Liberal fundraisers in Quebec City. Mr. Bellemare testified on Tuesday that Messrs. Fava and Rondeau put pressure on him to make the "right" nominations. He said when he complained to the Premier, Mr. Charest told him to listen to the fundraisers.

Mr. Charest held a news conference on Tuesday to deny the allegations. He is suing Mr. Bellemare for defamation.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bellemare told the commission when he quit politics in 2004, Mr. Charest wanted him to cite family reasons for the resignation, but he refused.

"I told him it is not my intention to seek revenge or wage a political war. . . . But I’m not going to say that I am resigning because my wife wants me to or because I had a stomach ache."

The shot at Mr. Charest came after three hours of gruelling questions by Giuseppe Battista, the commission’s chief prosecutor, who turned up the heat on Mr. Bellemare to prove his statement that Liberal fundraisers pressured him with the Premier’s blessing to name the "right" judges.

Mr. Battista asked Mr. Bellemare repeatedly why he waited seven years to bring forward his allegations if he was so shaken up emotionally and morally by the pressure of the three Liberal fundraisers he named— Mr. Fava, Mr. Rondeau and Guy Bisson.

Mr. Bellemare struggled. He was unable to say specifically when and where he met Mr. Fava, beyond saying it was between four and five times in restaurants around Quebec City in 2003, between July 4 and Sept. 2.

Mr. Bellemare has testified that it was Sept. 2 when he went to the Premier to complain about the pressure — only to be told by Mr. Charest to play along and name the three judges Mr. Fava suggested.

Mr. Bellemare said his then-chief of staff Michel Gagnon, or press secretary Jacques Tetreault, may have been there when he met Mr. Fava, but he was not certain.

He agreed with Mr. Battista that his former associate-deputy minister, Georges Lalande, spoke often to Mr. Fava when the government was working on some draft legislation, but could not say whether he was in one of the restaurants.

He conceded under questioning he had only ever seen Mr. Fava with Mr. Charest once in public even though he has asserted they are close personal friends.

So far, the only evidence Mr. Bellemare has produced are cryptic undated notes scrawled on a piece of cardboard. Later, when asked about his lack of documentation, he added: "I never take notes. I have a good memory. Everybody knows that."

The Bastarache commission recessed until Monday.

Postmedia News

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