Marc Bellemare remembers the sponsorship scandal (or does he?)

Perhaps the most impressive part of Marc Bellemare’s testimony at the Bastarache commission is the former Justice Minister’s seemingly infallible memory. Bellemare has been able to recall specific conversations on specific dates, not to mention many other innocuous details about his time in government—the brand of sparkling water he was served by Charest, the outcome of Montreal Canadiens’ hockey games, etc.

All of which makes it difficult to make sense of this exchange between Bellemare and the commission’s chief prosecutor, Giuseppe Battista, concerning Marc Bisson’s nomination as a judge for the Court of Quebec (see pp. 93-95 of the transcript):

Bellemare: [...] and [Liberal MNA] Norm MacMillan had also told me in August 2003 that Bisson the father was a delicate subject. The Auditor General’s report into the Gomery affair had been produced—I think it was in mid-February 2003, just before the election—and Mr. Guy Bisson, the father, was, apparently involved in that story, so we had to be careful. The father…

Battista: Who told you that?

Bellemare: Norm MacMillan and Franco Fava

Battista: Okay.

Bellemare: But not at the same time.

Battista: What did you have to be careful about?

Bellemare: Because Guy Bisson was involved in… with the sponsorship scandal.

Battista: And? What does…

Bellemare: Well, that he… that it was delicate because… for him and for the father, because he might be investigated and he might eventually have to testify before Gomery. Because Judge Gomery’s mandate had been confirmed, but the hearings hadn’t happened yet. I was being told to be careful because the father…. but with the son, there was no problem.

There’s a serious problem with the timeline here. The Auditor General’s report wasn’t released in February 2003, but on February 10, 2004—nearly three months after Bisson’s nomination was confirmed by the Charest government on November 26, 2003. (The Gomery inquiry was announced February 11, 2004.)

While it’s true the A-G’s investigation was well underway by then—a spokesperson for the A-G’s office confirmed to Maclean’s the investigation took about 18 months—there isn’t a single mention of Guy Bisson in Sheila Fraser’s report. In fact, Bisson’s name didn’t come up in connection with the sponsorship scandal until March 2005. By then, Bellemare had been out of government for nearly a year and was meeting with… the very same Franco Fava mentioned above to see if the Liberal organizer would help him raise money for his run for mayor of Quebec City.

[Hat tip to The Globe's Daniel Leblanc for hinting at the inconsistencies early Tuesday. Read his take on it here.]




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Marc Bellemare remembers the sponsorship scandal (or does he?)

  1. Hmmm…..sounds like another inquiry is required. Not only to find out how many judges have been bought and paid for, but also to determine if someone's trying to screw over Charest.

    • Take Bellemare with a grain of salt as well. I'm not saying Jean Charest is a boy scout by any stretch of the imagination, but on this particular issue; the judges appointments, he deserves some benefit of the doubt.

      Bellemare comes out with this, 6 years after the fact? He is claiming he was 'sworn to some oath after resigning in April of 2004', but if that were the case, why would Charest put in this open forum; the Bastarache Commission, and actually encourage Bellemare to come out and say his piece, which, if true, would actually kill Charest's own political career? Bellemare had refused to testify in the beginning, as well as refused to testify before some electoral commission. He's being sued by Charest to the tune of 700,000$ for defamation, yet Bellemare insisted on dragging his feet until push came to shove.

      Not to mention, when cross examined yesterday, Bellemare couldn't offer any proof to back up his own allegations. Since he is accusing Charest, the burdon of proof is upon him and not the other way around. I dunno, but if I were uneasy about certain acts that were asked of me by my boss, I would either find a way of recording it or taking notes or something I could use for a rainy day.

      Bellemare left office in a huff. He wanted to remove no-fault insurance. Charest said no. No doubt after insurance companies campaigned against it.

  2. Wow. That Franco knows everything and everyone, even ahead of time! A really valuable background political mover and shaker, eh?

  3. it seems that this journal is pro-liberal, i thought that the information would be impartial and free speaking.
    Charest ia a mafioso,pay attention to at his lawers

    • Juste pour le fun, j'aimerais ta définition du mot "impartial". Parce que ta façon d'amener le sujet m'indique que ce que tu cherches, c'est le contraire, c.-à-d. une information qui correspond à une opinion que tu t'es déjà faite.

  4. 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: http://www.goodgovernment.ca

    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch http://www.dwatch.ca

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