18 March 2016
Agents from the Quebec’s anti-corruption squad, UPAC, arrested Nathalie Normandeau, 48, yesterday on charges of conspiracy, bribery of a public servant, fraud against the government and abuse of trust. She was deputy premier and minister of natural resources until September of 2011, when she abruptly resigned her positions. Prior to that she held the portfolios of regional development and tourism (2003-2005) and municipal affairs (2005 to 2009). She also served as mayor of her hometown of Maria, Quebec, from 1992 to 1995.
Others arrested along with her are:
1. former Liberal cabinet minister and former Roche engineering firm executive Marc-Yvan Côté;
2. Bruno Lortie, Normandeau’s former chief of staff;
3. Mario W. Martel former Roche engineering firm employee.
4. France Michaud former Roche engineering firm employee.
5. Ernest Murray, a former political aide to former Parti Québécois premier Pauline Marois;
6. François Roussy, the former mayor of the town of Gaspé.
They are to appear in court in Quebec City on 20 April.
Corruption has long plagued Quebec’s construction industry. Quebec’s political class manoeuvred the province’s engineering firms in money making machines for the party.
Last November, Commission d’enquete sur l’octroi et la gestion des contracts publics dans l’industrie de la construction (popularly known as Charbonneau Commission, after the name of the chairperson), released its report on corruption in the construction industry in Quebec. Not surprisingly, the name of Nathalie Normandeau appears no less than 175 times in this report. The report outlines how the Quebec Liberal Party became flush, and a select few of the province’s construction firms got the lion’s share of government contracts.
Political donations by corporations are illegal in Quebec. Roche and many other companies in the construction industry will get their employees to make the donations in their own name and then get reimbursement from the company. It is surprising how they could account for the reimbursement this without getting caught in the audits.
Normandeau was called to appear before the Charbonneau Commission in June of 2014. She was called to answer questions raised in testimony by construction czar Lino Zambito about an $11-million subsidy she had awarded to a water-treatment plant in Boisbriand during her time as municipal affairs minister. Zambito, who owns construction company Infrabec, donated a total of $126,000 to the Quebec Liberal Party and won a $28-million contract. He also testified that he had given Normandeau gifts, such as 40 long-stemmed roses and tickets to a Céline Dion concert on her 40th birthday.