When the Ethics Commissioner concluded that the Minister of the Economy was violating the code by owning companies doing business with the State, last December, François Legault and Pierre Fitzgibbon believed they could buy a lot. time playing the negation card. They stretched the elastic as best they could, but had to give in this week to the same implacable observation.
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In December, the Caquists had rejected a new recommendation of blame against their pillar of the economy.
Deeming the sanction exaggerated, François Legault chose to defend his minister and not to force him to comply with the code by selling his shares in Immervision and White Star Capital.
The Prime Minister was then fighting the second wave of the pandemic. And in his entourage, we were sure that the complex ethical unraveling of the person in charge of business aid worried the political columnists more than the citizens in the cottages.
The government team calculated that it was better to endure criticism for a while than to go without Fitzgibbon at such a crucial time.
But the solidarity Vincent Marissal filed a new complaint to ask the ethics commissioner to rule on the breach of the code that was continuing.
“The answer came sooner than we thought,” admits a government source.
With less attention on the fight against COVID at this time, it is felt that the minister’s tribulations may “become more of a distraction” for the government.
What would Fitz do?
Plan A of François Legault, who still does not intend to effect a reshuffle, is that his friend Fitz succeeds in selling his famous shares and that he returns to his place within a few months.
This is why he asks the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, to combine the two functions for the moment, without giving promotion to a member of his team.
He does not rule out another solution if Fitz cannot find a buyer at a price that suits him.
There is also another possibility. As much as the strong man of the economy took a liking to his role as a government business negotiator, he hated being constantly at the center of controversy since his arrival in politics.
He had complained on March 31 of “complete relentlessness” on the part of the Journal.
After a moment of forced hiatus from media attention, he might feel like picking up the collar, or finding that he would be happier by completing the term out of the spotlight and then returning to business.
The government believes in “a good probability” that he will return.
But otherwise, Mr. Legault could be tempted to recruit a big name from the outside, who would access the Council of Ministers and try to be elected in 2022.
In the current Caquist caucus, the one with the most entrepreneurial profile is probably Orford MP Gilles Bélanger. But he has neither Fitz’s network of contacts nor a privileged relationship with François Legault.
Disappointment and fatigue
One thing is certain, the Prime Minister is struggling to cash the loss, when the fatigue of pandemic management is felt and the recovery must be set in motion.
You should have seen him lecture with arrogance to the leader of the opposition, Dominique Anglade, on Thursday in Parliament. “One day she will perhaps understand what I’m saying”, he asserted, before also seeking to divert attention during the questions of Pascal Bérubé, by maintaining that the PQ is not interested in the ‘economy.
At the end of the day, Legault and Fitzgibbon had to know upon coming to power in 2018 that his stakes in private companies would not be compatible with his ministerial responsibility.
They tried …