Quebec election laws were ignored, right from the start: veteran organizer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Quebec election laws were ignored, right from the start: veteran organizer

Gilles Cloutier, ex-employee of Roche engineering firm, is seen in a frame grab from the video feed at the Charbonneau inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry Tuesday, April 30, 2013 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-Charbonneau Commission
April 30, 2013 - 8:47 AM

MONTREAL - A witness is telling Quebec's corruption inquiry that the province's landmark election-financing law has been routinely ignored — almost from the start.

The elderly political veteran says that, about three years after Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois introduced political reforms in the late 1970s, they were being flouted by unscrupulous fundraisers.

The law was introduced in 1977 in the wake of scandals tied to the Bourassa Liberals; it banned corporate donations and limited personal contributions in Quebec.

Those measures have since been emulated in numerous jurisdictions — including the federal level.

But the latest witness at the Charbonneau commission says the effects of the 1977 law were short-lived and, he says, the majority of dollars donated to political parties arrive illegally.

Gilles Cloutier, a retired engineering executive and former political organizer, says it didn't take long to find loopholes in the stricter rules.

"A few years later, I'd say two or three years later, the law was being outsmarted," Cloutier told the inquiry.

Cloutier estimates that during the time that he was involved political fundraising, five to 10 per cent of municipal financing came from the legal contributions of private citizens.

At the provincial level, that number was 10 to 20 per cent, Cloutier said.

Everything else came from private firms.

He isn't the first witness to come to the inquiry and say that Quebec's restrictive rules had little impact.

Cloutier, whose background is in business development and has been working in politics since his teens, has been interviewed previously by Radio-Canada's investigative show Enquete.

His political organizing career dates back to the era of former Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis in the 1950s. He then went on to work for Liberal governments, as Duplessis' Union Nationale party dissolved.

He described today how he spent illegal money on advertising to help the No side in the 1995 referendum, which his side narrowly won and Canada stayed together.

Cloutier has worked as a political advisor and for the Quebec government while also organizing elections in suburbs outside Montreal.

The inquiry today is turning its gaze away from Montreal and beginning to look more closely at financing elsewhere, like the so-called "turn-key" elections conducted in the suburbs.

"Turn-key" elections are where companies, like construction and law firms, provide everything and candidates step right into a privately financed campaign operation.

Cloutier is not an engineer but worked for decades with engineering firms Roche and Dessau. He admits that it was his wealth of contacts in the municipal and political worlds that made him so sought-after.

He has co-operated with inquiry lawyers and investigators.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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