Quebec premier wants probe of scandal allegations

* Charest says charges totally untrue, but probe needed

* Liberals trailing separatists in latest poll

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, April 13 (BestGrowthStock) – Quebec Premier Jean Charest,
trailing in the polls behind separatists seeking independence
for the Canadian province, said on Tuesday he is ordering a
public inquiry into allegations that some major donors to his
Liberal Party had influenced the naming of judges.

Former Liberal Justice Minister Marc Bellemare made the
charges in an interview on Monday. His remarks added to the
pressure on Charest, whose popularity fell after the government
last month released a budget that raised taxes.

Charest said that although there was no truth to what
Bellemarre had said, Quebecers need to know there is nothing
wrong with the justice system. Charest also threatened to sue
Bellemarre unless he retracted his remarks, which included
allegations that the Liberals had broken fund-raising rules.

“The ways in which our party is financed have never had any
influence whatsoever on the government’s legislative agenda,”
Charest told a news conference in Quebec City.

“This isn’t about me. It’s about … the judicial system
and it’s about the integrity of the government. So that’s what
we’re going to focus on,” he said.

Bellemare, who served as justice minister from 2003 to
2004, said he had protested at the time to Charest about what
was going on. The premier dismissed this as false and said he
had no idea what Bellemare’s motives were.

Although Charest is not in any immediate threat of defeat
— the Liberals easily won a December 2008 election and control
a majority of seats in Quebec’s National Assembly — he is
looking increasingly uncomfortable.

A Leger poll for Le Devoir newspaper on Monday put the
Liberals on just 30 percent public support compared to 40
percent for the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ), reflecting, in
part, public anger over the government’s budget.

Fully 77 percent of respondents said they were unhappy with
the government.

Charest, who has been Quebec premier for almost seven years
and involved in politics since 1984, repeatedly told reporters
how tough it is to be a politician but brushed aside questions
about whether he would step down.

The PQ also wants an inquiry into allegations of corruption
in the powerful construction industry — an idea Charest has so
far rejected — and into how the Liberals are financed.

“Mr. Charest does not have the credibility he needs to
proceed (with the inquiry) … what the prime minister is
proposing is inadequate and unacceptable,” PQ leader Pauline
Marois told reporters.

Previous PQ governments held referendums on independence
from Canada in 1980 and 1995. Both failed. Marois has been
vague about the timing of another referendum if her party were
to regain power.
Investment Research

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

Quebec premier wants probe of scandal allegations