Interview with Annie Trudel: Corruption in Quebec, UPAC and Robert Poeti’s failure to fix things
Independent analyst Annie Trudel has been making headlines ever since she publicly testified about collusion in the transport ministry. She also claimed that documents and reports she prepared to prove it were tampered with.
Trudel began her career in the fight against corruption in 2010 in the organization that predates Quebec’s anti-corruption police, UPAC. Former Transport Minister Robert Poeti later hired her as an independent auditor, where she uncovered cases of the transport ministry “illegally awarding government contracts.”
In October 2017, she made headlines again in arguably the biggest political story of the year – when UPAC arrested her and sitting Liberal MNA, Guy Ouellette. Now, in a new tell-all book, Jeux de Coulisse, Trudel reveals the inside world of anti-corruption investigation.
In her sit-down interview with Raquel Fletcher, she says the level of corruption in Quebec is so deeply ingrained, she believes it even exists in the province’s anti-corruption squad.
RF: When you were called back to the National Assembly, you revealed things that you might expect to read in a detective novel. You reveal in your book that when UPAC received a USB key with your documents on it, they used that information to investigate you and your sources. Why do you think that was? How can you be sure?
AT: Their main preoccupation is to know who talked, not to know what is the real problem. I was working for the minister, so my job and those emails – and I had a lot – were for me to prepare a business case for the minister, to say, ‘Okay, here’s the situation. Here are what your colleagues don’t want to do.’
And these are all the emails that disappeared. Well, they were deleted. And you understand there are some things I can’t say because at this point there are some investigations going on. There are civil suits going on that concern me. So I have to be careful, but what I know is that the cabinet of the premier was very interested in what happened to that USB key. And they asked for an investigation. And they do know who erased all those emails on the USB key.
RF: So the premier knows who deleted those emails?
AT: I don’t know for him, but his staff (does).
RF: So what is your reaction then to the response that the premier and his staff have taken to date?
AT: They would prefer to show me or present me to the population as a loner, or paranoid, who exaggerates everything. They don’t want to see the reality. They don’t want to admit that something is wrong. Even if they admit it behind the scenes to each other, they don’t want to admit it publicly.
They just make decisions, (such as) they transfer this person to another division. And they fire that person. Like the transport ministry – since that moment (where I testified) we don’t hear anything. We don’t talk about it anymore. It’s as if all the problems are resolved, but they’re not.
RF: Is that unique or particular to this party or is that the case with all political parties, all elected officials?
AT: I think all elected officials would act this way because – this is so sad to say – but I believe that the officials, the ones people elect, they are not the real bosses in Quebec. The people who are in full control of our province are the non-elected people – the head of UPAC, the heads of all the public institutions.
The politicians, poor them. What can they do? I say, ‘poor them.’ People would kill me for that (laughs), but politicians, they know that if they go to a ministry and something bad happens, they will just move to another ministry and that’s it. The (deputy) minister still is in place, the high-level managers are still in place, they don’t move. And they know! They say, ‘Well whatever, if it’s not a good project, it’s okay, I’ll have another minister. Me, I’m here for the next 10 or 15 years.’
RF: You have developed a romantic relationship with Liberal MNA Guy Ouellette, who was arrested by UPAC in October 2017. On that same day, you were nearly arrested on the sidewalk by UPAC officers. Neither of you are facing any charges at this time.
AT: No. No.
RF: Why do you believe they did that?
AT: I strongly believe that our arrest was directly linked to the fact that we were helping people who were stuck in a very bad situation between UPAC, the AMF (financial markets authority) and private consultants.
So those people did not know who they should be addressing their problems to. They obviously couldn’t go to UPAC because UPAC was involved. We thought about it that (the best way) to protect those people was to forward them towards their MNA’s.
The MNA’s have to protect you because you’re a source, because they are elected by the people and they work for the people and for that reason they have immunity. And an MNA was arrested … And he was also the president of the only commission who was able to ask the high-level managers of UPAC some serious questions.
We are still facing no accusations. I’m sure I will never face any accusations.
RF: What do you say to people who believe you and Ouellette were the source of the media leaks about UPAC’s investigations?
AT: I cannot talk for Mr. Ouellette, I can talk for myself. I have never had any interest in the investigation files of UPAC because I never believed in the investigation files of UPAC. The files they are investigating, for me, it’s not serious, that’s my point of view.
Everything is marketing with UPAC. I really don’t care about their investigations.
What I care about, is they’ve been there seven, eight years now. They have done nothing, but spend a lot of money. And just giving jobs to the friends of the friends of the high-level management of UPAC.
READ MORE: Guy Ouellette testifies in corruption trial
RF: You say now that you have become a sort of pariah in the Liberal government, that –
AT: **Trudel takes a deep, audible sigh**
RF: – even Robert Poeti, who was your former boss but also at one time, a friend as well – that he no longer wants to work with you. You also say that instead of working with you, Mr. Poeti retraced steps in contacting the same people, trying to get the same expertise with these corruption-fighting organizations in Europe that you had already built relationships with previously.
And you say that this made you “realize at what point we have become masters in Quebec in the art of shooting ourselves in the foot. A real banana republic.” What did you mean by this?
AT: Well, I like Robert very much. I know he had a job to do. But he went to Europe and did a conference to the OCDE about how good we are in Quebec. That is not what he was supposed to do!
Can you believe it, people in France called me back and said, ‘What is this? You were here a year ago. And now he comes back? You did nothing, but he comes back and does a conference about how good you are? What is that?’
This is what we do. We don’t take action fast. We know, but we don’t take action. So at the end of the day, nothing ever happens.
RF: We’re going to have an election in October. What does the next government need to do to really fight corruption in Quebec?
AT: Absolutely. I think the first thing is to break links. There are too much very important links between the politicians and high-level managers at UPAC and all the other organizations. At one point, you have to change – two, three years maximum. Seven years? That’s too long to break links.
And then, (we need to) change the nomination process. This needs to change. Because the people who are nominated owes something to that government for the rest of their career.
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