Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Star candidate's gaffe embarrasses party

Claimed he will appoint ministers

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MONTREAL -- Jacques Duchesneau's career in provincial politics was less than 24 hours old before he started taking his political lumps Monday.

The corruption whistleblower, hired as a star recruit by the Coalition for Quebec's Future, had to be publicly contradicted by his party leader.

Duchesneau told a Montreal radio station he would be responsible for naming ministers in different departments that would be involved in the fight against corruption.

He said Legault had offered him a future role as minister of public security -- but he refused. He said he's not interested in handling forest fires and floods and other things that might pop up under that portfolio.

He said his agreed-upon future role would see him serve as minister responsible for fighting corruption; he would oversee the file in various government departments, even picking the ministers who run those departments.

"If I'm entering politics, it's to attack corruption -- nothing else," he told the radio station 98.5 FM.

"I want to be the conductor for all the ministers that deal with it."

The comments forced party leader Franßois Legault to issue a quick clarification. He told reporters he, as premier, would choose his ministers.

"What I said to Mr. Duchesneau is that I would consult with him on (appointments to) four ministries," Legault said. "It's the prerogative of the premier to choose his ministers...

"There will be only one boss."

Duchesneau's entry into the race has brought an instant burst of attention to the Coalition, which is running in its first election.

When reports of his candidacy first surfaced, pundits described it as a potential game-changer. But there were also warnings Legault might have a hard time corralling the egos of some of his recruits. Duchesneau has been involved in famous run-ins with past work colleagues.

The party's opponents took delight Monday in the apparent misstep from their famous new foe.

Liberal Leader and Premier Jean Charest quipped: "Will Franßois Legault handle the Twitter account and cocktail fundraisers, while Jacques Duchesneau handles the rest?"

He also heaped scorn on the suggestion, from Legault, that Duchesneau would be like Quebec's Elliot Ness. Charest noted Ness was a police officer -- not a politician.

Duchesneau, former chief of Montreal's police force, was hired by the Charest government to investigate corruption. He is perhaps the person most responsible for forcing the premier to call a public inquiry.

Duchesneau's entry into the race prompted questions to Charest about whether that one event might singlehandedly change the campaign.

Charest played down such talk. He pointed to Monday's confusion as proof things can change very quickly in politics.

"The game's not over yet," he said.

"Things are evolving."

The most recent polls suggested a tight three-way race, with the pro-independence Parti Québécois holding a slight edge entering the campaign. Quebecers vote Sept. 4.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2012 A7

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