Bastarache, day one: he said, he said -

Bastarache, day one: he said, he said


The Bastarache inquiry, for you ignorant or indifferent souls, is the commission du jour here in Quebec. It’s a really, really long back story (chronicled here by yours truly in April), the gist of which is this: earlier this year, former justice minister Marc Bellemare alleged that under the Jean Charest Liberals, the judge selection process is replete with cronyism and partisan politicking–less a selection process than a coronation of people who have curried favour with the Liberal Party of Quebec. Charest, in a familiar fit of pique, took exception and called a commission into said selection process, to be chaired by esteemed jurist Michel Bastarache. Bellemare and Charest called each other liars, the latter sued the former for $700,000, Bellemare said he wouldn’t testify, then said he would. Meanwhile, Quebec’s voting public found yet another reason to be jaded and cynical about this province’s political class.


Bellemare testified today, and put meat on the bones of his earlier allegations. And lordy, quelle meat: Charest, Bellemare alleged, bent to the will of Franco Fava, a Liberal fundraiser, who wanted certain judges appointed. Bellemare named the judges in question: Marc Bisson, Michel Simard and Lin Gosselin-Desprès, all of whom have ties of some sort to the Liberal Party. Bellemare said he felt pressure to appoint the judges in question because of “colossal” pressure from Fava. “Franco is a personal friend, he’s an influent fundraiser. We need guys like him. We need to listen to him. He’s a professional fundraiser. If he tells you to name Simard and Bisson, then name them,” Charest said, according to Bellemare. He named dates and times that he met with Charest, and recalled being served Perrier at one of the meetings. He also said the he found the whole judge appointment thing morally abhorrent, and was one of the reasons he left the job not even a year after being elected.

(An aside.Try this at home: next time you make a mistake–drop your toast on the ground, say, or accidentally nominate a judge to the Superior Court–scream out “Bastarache!” It’s like swearing without being naughty.)

It’s rather explosive stuff, if only because Charest has spent the last six months swearing up and down that none of this was true. And, yes, Charest showed up in front of the cameras not even an hour after Bellemare wrapped things up for the day, to reiterate how Bellemare was full of Bastarache. It would be comical if the whole thing didn’t cost $6 million. Also, as Gohier pointed out, Charest’s quick sortie “calls into question all those non-statements about how public officials can’t comment when an issue is before the courts/commissions.”

Yes, Bellemare has a freakish ability to remember dates and times, and he’s a copious note taker. Yet there are a few details that don’t quite square:

1) Bellemare paints himself as an outsider who said he was done with politics when he retired in 2004. Yet he twice ran for mayor of Quebec City after that. Running for office takes moolah, and take a guess which fundraiser he tried to recruit in 2005: Franco Fava.

2) He left office in 2004 disillusioned, he said, because Charest went back on his promise to support the revamping of Quebec’s no fault insurance plan to better serve car accident victims, his pet project. And for the last six months he has basically painted the Premier as a stooge for Liberal bagmen and construction unions. Yet in 2004–right around the time he was running for mayor, coincidentally or not–he wrote a slobbering open letter in Le Soleil, describing Charest as a statesman of the first order. “Every time [Charest] receives foreign dignitaries in Quebec City he score precious points. By exploiting his best quality, he meet the great expectations of the citizens who live there.”

Some decent fodder for cross-examination, to say the least.

The inquiry continues tomorrow.

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Bastarache, day one: he said, he said

  1. What a total bastarache…

  2. We only get dim echoing reports of this in my part of the universe … appreciate the update.

  3. I think this is the kind of inquiry that will only end up hurting all involved. Not much will be learned and even less will be solved by the end of this costly affair.
    I'm a supporter of inquiries, however one that looks into political favours has no chance of achieving anything.

  4. Looks like a personal conflict gone badly wrong, and in the process the closet door came open.

  5. The judge selection process in Quebec being rife with cronyism and partisan politicking? Say it ain't so!

    Oh wait, it has been that way for 300 years now.

  6. With his meek history of running away as soon as he dropped his bombshell accusations in the past, and his "erratic behaviour" leading up to this commission ("and erratic is almost the kindest possible word" — both quotes from today's Gazette editorial), has today's testimony helped or hindered his reputation? From your description, I am not sure. From my limited following of this guy, not much could probably make his rep any worse…

    • Well, Bellemare isn't exactly seen as a noble whistleblower, that's for sure.

      That being said, I'll be blunt: basing one's understanding of the current political mood(s) in Quebec on the Gazoo's editorials isn't a very good idea. On politics, I'd say they are more often than else completely out of whack with the mainstream. Doesn't mean they are wrong, mind you. And their political reporting is, as far as I can tell, pretty darn good.

  7. (An aside.Try this at home: next time you make a mistake–drop your toast on the ground, say, or accidentally nominate judge to the Superior Court–scream out “Bastarache!” It's like swearing without being naughty.)

    or try this at home: burn the toast, then throw it on the floor and when your significant other/the cat looks at you with that 'wtf are you doing look' say, "well the toaster burnt the toast what do you want me to do????".

    and when he/she/it sighs, yell “Bastarache!”

  8. What doesn't square is that, at the end of the day, his main attack on the Premier is about a crime without witnesses. Good luck with that (and the 39 pro-charest guys [with assorted lawyers] lining up to testify).

    Your two points that "don't square" are actually probably very telling of the whole ordeal: flashbulbs and politics loving lawyer with a few causes (No-fault, reform of administrative courts) gets elected for established party who just made said causes into electoral platform planks. Dude gets onto it, realize he doesn't have that much power and has to obey a bunch of dudes he's rather brush off. But he keeps his eyes on the ball, swallows it all. When it becomes apparent he won't see those reforms, he bolts, hoping to money his good soldiering in a bid for his home city's mayorality. Actually gets two shots at it, takes a beating both times.

    The guy sucks at faustian bargain. You'll find a bunch of guys like him in the wake of any successful politician… What's unusual is when said politician mounts an inquiry about it…

  9. Hmm….interesting story, but not really news.

    Look back in Canadian History and what do you find when it comes to corruption?

    Usually, this is the equation.

    Quebec + Liberals + Mafia = Quebec politics.

    What WILL be news, is if anyone involved in it goes to jail. I'm sorry, but what does it take to convince a Canadian journalist to point out that most of the names mentioned in these corruption stories are of Italian origin. It's a fact….why not point it out?

    The mafia and organized crime basicall OWN Quebec's politicians.

  10. Whether or not former Quebec justice minister Marc Bellemare's allegations are true that a fundraiser for the provincial Liberal Party had influence over the appointment of judges, the situation and other recent Quebec ethics scandals point to the need for key democratic reforms.

    The annual individual donation limit should be lowered to $500; disclosure of more details about donors and fundraisers and gifts should be required, and; per-vote public funding for parties and candidates should be increased.

    Politicians, their staff and decision-making public officials in the provincial and municipal governments should be required to disclose the identity of everyone who lobbies them in an organized way.

    And everyone who participates in organized lobbying should be prohibited from helping in any significant way with fundraising and the campaigns of candidates and parties.

    If these changes are made, the ability of anyone to have undue influence over any Quebec politician or public official will be greatly reduced.

    Hope this helps, and for details go to:

    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch

  11. Hiya, Duff……

    I agree with much of what you say, however, I'm not in favour of per-vote subsidies. Increase the personal donations to about $1,500 and STOP the per vote subsidies. If people support the principles of a party, then let them support it financially.

    Getting rid of the per-vote subsidy would help cripple the bloc in their efforts to seperate from Canada, and it would get rid of non-entity nuisance parties like the Greens.