Liberals are getting pounded over the Caisse losses

So far, they have ducked formal debate on the fund, but not for much longer

CDPQ-Subprimes - qui sont les coupables?

When Premier Jean Charest called the Dec. 8 provincial election, he said it was because his Liberal minority government lacked the necessary stability to steer Quebec safely through the approaching economic storm.
A single pair of hands on the wheel was what was needed, he said.
But since Charest obtained his parliamentary majority, it has been more like "look, ma, no hands." First he allowed opposition leader Pauline Marois to veto his proposal to have the National Assembly sit before Christmas, even though the premier has the power to call an extraordinary sitting at any time without the consent of the opposition.
So he waited until January to have the Assembly discuss the "urgent" economic situation - for three days, before adjourning for two months.
And this week his government tried to blame the Parti Québécois for delaying hearings on the Caisse de dépôt losses until next month, though the government's majority allows it to call any hearings it wants as soon as the session resumes next week.
For more than a week, since the Caisse reported last year's losses of $40 billion, the Liberals have been engaged in a partisan tug-of-war with the PQ over the timing, scope and duration of hearings. The government has been trying to minimize its exposure, and the opposition to maximize it.
The Liberals have been resisting calls from the PQ for Charest and Finance Minister Monique Jérôme-Forget to go before an Assembly committee to answer questions in relation to the losses.
In particular, the PQ wants to know whether the government had the Caisse make riskier investments in search of a greater return, and whether, as some suspect, it withheld knowledge of the anticipated losses until after the Dec. 8 election.
It also wants to hear former as well as present Caisse officials and to see documents related to the Caisse's investment policies and practices. And it wanted the hearings to last several weeks.
The government offered to hold hearings this week, but for only two days, only with officials who were at the Caisse last year and without Charest and Jérôme-Forget.
When the PQ did not accept the offer, the government could have gone ahead with the hearings anyway, once the session resumes next week.
Instead, Jérôme-Forget said there would be no hearings on the Caisse until its officials appeared before the Assembly committee examining the finance department's spending estimates for next year.
Those hearings probably won't take place before next month. And they will take at most 20 hours to examine the budget of the finance department as well as the Caisse and all the other government corporations for which the finance minister is responsible.
In the meantime, Henri-Paul Rousseau, who was president of the Caisse until last May, will tell his side of the story, but on his own terms rather than those of a committee. He is to do so on Monday, in a speech to the Montreal board of trade followed by a news conference.
Yesterday, Jérôme-Forget made a small apparent concession, offering to debate PQ leader Pauline Marois on the Caisse for two hours next Friday in the Assembly.
It was an indication that the government realizes that it is losing the political debate over the Caisse. Though it denies any responsibility for the Caisse's losses, 55 per cent of Quebecers disagreed in a survey conducted last week by Léger Marketing for Le Journal de Montréal.
The government appears to be in a no-win situation. If it accepts hearings on the Caisse, it gives the PQ a forum in which to attack it. And if it resists them, it risks appearing to be trying to cover up its responsibility.
The growth spurt for Action démocratique du Québec occurred in the 2007 general election, not 2003, as I wrote Thursday. Sorry.

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé