Ministers will have to get rid of their company

The companies are headed by three ministers of the Legault government, which could be incompatible with their new functions.

• Also read: $150 million in public funds in Fitzgibbon’s agent companies

The ethics commissioner could also ask them to part with it, otherwise they would be prevented from attending meetings of the Council of Ministers.

Christopher Skeete, France-Élaine Duranceau and Bernard Drainville are the business leaders, according to the Quebec Commercial Register.

The Code of Ethics for Elected Officials states that “a member of the Executive Council […] cannot act as a director or executive of a legal entity”.

“All specific situations must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and depending on the context”, however, specifies the commissioner’s office, which will investigate the situation of the three ministers.

Christopher Skeete, the minister’s deputy for the economy, is president of the private medical clinic Cas Medic, a family business that offers sampling and vaccination services that are covered by patients’ private insurance.


Christopher Skeete

Photo d’archives, Stevens LeBlanc

Christopher Skeete

“Very Sensitive”

The majority shareholder of the clinic is Fiducie Sauternes. In 2021 Mr Skeete was listed as a Trustee in his Statement of Interest.

He and his wife own rental properties listed on the website of a property management company owned by the Trust.

Mr Skeete said he was “very sensitive” to the situation and pledged to “follow the recommendations that come to him from the commissioner, who he will meet with in the next few days”, according to his aide.

It’s the same story for France-Élaine Duranceau, the minister responsible for housing, who owns several real estate companies.


France-Elaine Duranceau

Photo d’archives, Stevens LeBlanc

France-Elaine Duranceau

“If steps are to be taken to comply with the guidelines [de la Commissaire]it will be done quickly,” says his attache

She is the first shareholder and director of a “real estate investment” company.

She is also the first shareholder and president of NOMI real estate and eventually the majority shareholder and sole director of the investment company.

“Whiter Than White”

Education Minister Bernard Drainville is president of the company for its communications contracts. He will become “inactive” as the minister will devote himself entirely to “public service”, his attaché tells us.


Bernard Drainville during his swearing in as minister last week.  He will meet with the ethics commissioner soon and should follow her guidelines.

Photo d’archives, Stevens LeBlanc

Bernard Drainville during his swearing in as minister last week. He will meet with the ethics commissioner soon and should follow her guidelines.

“We’re going to get an ethics commissioner’s opinion to make sure it’s whiter than white,” he adds.

In collaboration with Francis Halin and Philippe Langlois, Le Journal and Bureau d’Enquête

WHAT IT SAYS Code of Ethics for Elected Officials

“A member of the executive board must devote himself fully to the performance of his function. In particular, he may not act as an executive or manager of a legal entity, company or association.

If necessary, a member of the Executive Board must resign as a director or officer as soon as possible after taking the oath. […] and cease any activity other than the performance of their functions. In the meantime, he cannot participate in meetings of the Executive Council, the Ministerial Committee of the Executive Council or the Treasury Board. »

Avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest

Can a minister be a minister and be involved in a private company? “That’s the $1,000 question, it’s never white, it’s never black,” says Michel Séguin, a professor and ethics expert at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

“Someone who holds a high office must try to avoid interests so that it does not distort his objectivity or sow doubts among his fellow citizens,” says the expert.

Although the ethics commissioner must comment on the situation and interests of each minister, i.e. whether there is a risk of a potential conflict, she will also keep in mind the idea of ​​the appearance of a conflict of interests.

“Everyone has their own interests, so these are not analyzes that are done on the corner of the table. But politicians often tend to underestimate the impact that the appearance of a conflict of interest can have,” he continues.

People also tend to be suspicious of elected officials, especially when the decision is not unanimous, the professor says.

A recent example

In the past, several ministers had to sell their company or their shares. In the last election period, the economy minister Pierre Fitzgibbon had to get rid of his assets in several companies.

“It was difficult for him,” recalls Mr. Séguin.

Mr Fitzgibbon was also charged by the Ethics Commissioner and forced to temporarily step down from his ministerial duties in 2021, when it is time to rectify his situation.

The minister was the subject of controversy. For example, he held a stake in the White Star funds, a company in which Quebec invested. The government also loaned $50 million to Lion Electric, one of whose directors is Michel Ringuet, then an agent of Mr Fitzgibbon’s trust.

Responsibility

The minister was often irritated by journalists’ questions about his business dealings.

“As an elected official, you have to be able to demonstrate your integrity, that’s part of your responsibilities,” Mr. Séguin said.

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