QUEBEC CITY – Damning testimony about the “illegal awarding of government contracts” has outraged politicians at Quebec’s National Assembly.
It left many pointing fingers, as opposition parties try to get to the bottom of the scandal.
“I really was scared,” said Louise Boily, internal auditor director at Transports Quebec, Wednesday night in front of the Public Administration Committee at the National Assembly.
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Boily testified alongside Annie Trudel, the investigator hired by former Transport Minister Robert Poëti to look into “irregularities” in the transport ministry.
READ MORE: UPDATED: Whistleblower in Transports Quebec corruption allegations testifies Wednesday
Both women said they were afraid to reveal their suspicions that Transports Quebec was awarding contracts without tender.
The whistleblowers also said numerous reports they prepared were later doctored and falsified.
Thursday morning, there was fallout from the meeting as opposition parties demanded an emergency debate.
“I spoke, of course, this morning with the minister, but also the deputy minister, Mr. [Denis] Marsolais, who is going to introduce significant changes,” said Premier Philippe Couillard.
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It’s not enough for opposition parties, who are calling for the Premier to fire Marsolais and Transport Minister Jacques Daoust.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen a government table false documents in the National Assembly,” said interim Parti Québécois leader Sylvain Gaudreault.
“It should be seen as contempt.”
Yet, the second opposition argued responsibility also lies with former ministers, like Gaudreault himself who ran the transport file under former PQ Premier Pauline Marois.
READ MORE: Transports Quebec corruption documents not yet public
“I think those problems were very bad and Mr. [Sam] Hamad, Mr. Gaudreault, they must have seen that,” said Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) leader François Legault.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m going to stop you right there,” Gauldreault said in response.
He argued he didn’t know the scope of the problem, but said he tried to overhaul Transports Quebec and appointed an external auditor.
The scandal also roped in an embattled former Couillard cabinet minister: Sam Hamad was also transport minister under Premier Jean Charest.
Thursday, Quebec’s ethics commissioner harshly criticized Hamad’s lack of prudence and judgement in an unrelated allegation of influence peddling, but didn’t find enough proof to lay blame.
Now, Hamad has been thrown back in the hot seat for hiring a controversial deputy transport minister: Dominique Savoie.
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Savoie lost her job when the issues at Transports Quebec became public; opposition MNAs have accused her of lying about what she knew.
Savoie has now found a job in the premier’s office, and Couillard defended both her and Hamad, arguing the problem is institutional.
“There’s also been a culture of information not circulating as freely as it should and obviously not reaching previous ministers, not only the current one, but previous ones as well, of all parties, by the way,” the Premier said.
He said the culture will change, but he’s not firing anyone.