During the second week of the Quebec election campaign, the premier is not ruling out suing Radio-Canada after they implied he interfered with a police investigation.
On Wednesday, Radio-Canada (CBC's French language service) reported that in March 2009, Premier Jean Charest ran into Eddy Brandome at a hotel. The two spoke briefly.
As CTV News reports, Brandome is a long time Liberal donor and was the secretary-treasurer of F.T.Q. Construction, a company that was being investigated for fraud. At the time of the encounter, Brandome was under police surveillance and officers with the Surete du Quebec saw the two men speaking.
According to this week's Radio-Canada report, the police investigation was terminated shortly after Brandome and Charest met. Although the network did not say so, they strongly implied that the premier had interfered with the investigation and had it called off.
Radio-Canada sources for their story were members within the Surete du Quebec who wanted to remain anonymous and who would not appear on camera.
The day after the story broke, the Globe and Mail reports the premier telling reporters, "My conscience is clear. I'm not sure the same can be said for Radio-Canada today." When asked by a Radio-Canada reporter if he would make a complaint or file a lawsuit, Charest said he was "not excluding anything."
CBC reports in response to the story, the Surete du Quebec issued a statement saying, "The Surete du Quebec has complete and total independence with regards to its operation and criminal investigations. No one, and I mean no one, is above the law or can be protected from criminal investigations."
Charest acknowledges he has known Brandome since 1993 when the premier ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party. But he cannot recall ever having a substantive conversation with him and cannot recall the specific meeting in March 2009. The Ottawa Citizen reports Charest said, "I remember him because every time he came to say hello he pointed out that he's a union activist, which is, in our party, rare."
Radio-Canada has been criticized for their tactics although they deny there was any connection between their story and the fact an election campaign is underway. As reported by Yahoo News, Manon Cornellier, writing in L'actualite.com, said that the headline and the lead were misleading. Readers would have to read well into the story to realize there was no evidence Charest interfered with the investigation.
If Charest does take action, it will not be until after the Sept. 4 election.
Yesterday, the Globe and Mail reported the election appears to be a close three way race. A recent poll shows Charest's Liberals trailing the separatist Parti Quebecois, 32% to 31%. But the new party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec(CAQ), has 27% support, an increase of six points since the election campaign began on Aug. 1.
One of the major issues in this election is corruption tied to the Liberal government that has been in power in the province since 2003.