QUEBEC – Quebec’s Coalition party, which promises a zero-tolerance approach to political corruption, has suddenly suspended one of its own members.
Legislature member Daniel Ratthe has been punted from the party caucus amid allegations he engaged in illegal financing back when he was in municipal politics.
Leader Francois Legault said he suspended Ratthe after being told he had met earlier Tuesday with investigators from the Charbonneau Commission looking into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry.
The Coalition leader described the allegations as “extremely serious.”
He said Ratthe was told by the investigators that a witness “was going to testify before the commission that he had given cash to an organizer in Mr. Ratthe’s campaign to be mayor of Blainville in 2005.”
Ratthe was defeated in that Montreal-area municipal race, but was elected to the legislature under the Parti Quebecois banner in 2008. He joined the new Coalition party in 2012.
Ratthe insisted to caucus that he had done nothing wrong, Legault told a news conference. But the leader said he asked Ratthe to leave the party’s caucus “until a light has been shone on the allegations of the witness.”
“We can leave no doubts (about ethical matters),” Legault said.
“With Mr. Jacques Duchesneau, we have been very clear — we have zero tolerance and we must set an example.”
Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief, was also a high-profile anti-corruption investigator in Quebec before being elected as a member of the Coalition party in last year’s election.
The party has since cast itself as the standard-bearer in the fight to clean up Quebec politics.
It’s the second time Ratthe has been expelled from a party caucus in 18 months. He was booted out of the PQ in 2011 for talking to a rival party, shortly before switching to the Coalition.