Political mud slinging dirties Quebec law firms

The Parti Québécois tried to make political hay in early February when it jumped on a La Presse story that revealed that 46 of the 180 lawyers with the Montreal-based business law firm BCF had contributed a total of $20,000 to the coffers of Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), a new right-wing provincial political party led by former PQ cabinet minister and businessman François Legault — and for which BCF co-founder and managing partner Mario Charpentier is in charge of finances.

But things went horribly wrong for the PQ just days later when it was widely reported that 49 lawyers with Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP have donated $153,000 since 2003 to the coffers of the left-leaning, sovereignty-promoting PQ — all of them with the firm’s Quebec City and Saguenay offices, which are run by regional associate managing partner Éric Bédard, brother of PQ MNA Stéphane Bédard.

The PQ had used the story about the contribution by BCF’s lawyers to call on the CAQ leader, who does not have a seat in the provincial legislature, to take a public stand on the always tricky question of political party financing, a key platform in the PQ’s program.

“[Our party] believes we must be free of the influence of money and money collectors,” PQ caucus president Raymond Archambault was quoted as saying in a press release on Feb. 2.  “That’s why we are proposing that the maximum limit in political party donations be lowered to $100 per person. We ask [Legault[ to do the honourable thing and support us.”

PQ leaders didn’t see any inconsistency and/or hypocrisy in their position when the donations by Fasken Martineau lawyers became public.

“Over 10 years, that’s only four lawyers a year,” MNA Stéphane Bédard said about the contributions from his brother’s firm. “The CAQ had 40 lawyers or twice as many in only six months.”

For her part, PQ leader Pauline Marois was shocked that anyone would question an individual’s right to “give to the party of their choice.” She added that it would be “worrying” if lawyer Éric Bédard didn’t contribute to his own brother’s political party.

Louis Masson, president of the Barreau du Quebec, did not return calls for comment.

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