Quebec’s economy minister defended himself Wednesday against allegations he says are unfounded. The ethics commissioner is opening an investigation into Pierre Fitzgibbon regarding assets he holds in private companies.
This is the second time the minister has faced an ethics question about his business dealings and potential conflicts of interest.
A frustrated Fitzgibbon confronted reporters Wednesday, saying allegations written about him by some Quebec media outlets cross a line.
“When I had to explain to my mother, who is 93 years old, why this is rubbish, I don’t like that,” he said while holding a copy of a particular newspaper article in question.
WATCH: Quebec’s economy minister under ethics investigation
Quebec opposition MNAs accuse the minister of breaking conflict of interest rules and failing to properly declare assets owned in private companies, but Fitzgibbon insists he is following the proper steps to avoid conflicts of interest.
“My life has been investing in companies, that’s what I like. And I have 10, 11 left and I told the ethics commissioner I’m going to sell them all. I’m ready to sell them — at the right price,” he explained.
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Last November, Fitzgibbon also came under fire for shares he owned in a company that did business with Bombardier. At the time, he said he was open to investing more government money in Bombardier. In that case, like this one, Fitzgibbon insists he followed all the rules.
“I’m not going to give you the details of my assets,” he said.
“But I’ve got three buckets of assets: liquid assets, which are companies you trade in the stock exchange, I have property and I have private companies,” Fitzgibbon said.
WATCH: Quebec economy minister denies conflict of interest (November 2018)
Fitzgibbon said that unlike his liquid assets, which are in a blind trust since being named minister, he cannot do the same with his shares in private companies.
“Those assets are not qualified to be in a blind trust, therefore when those two MNA are accusing me of having manipulated the trust, it’s erroneous by virtue of it’s legally impossible,” Fitzgibbon said.
Fitzgibbon said that the optics of these allegations and public criticism could make him rethink his place in politics.
“This will have to stop, because at one point I have other things in life to do than this,” he said.
“If ever I feel that my presence at the Conseil des ministres is detrimental to what Mr. Legault has in mind, I’m going to quit in 30 seconds,” he added.
There’s also another allegation against the economy minister, claiming Fitzgibbon nominated a personal friend, Guy Leblanc, as president and CEO of Investissement Québec.
Fitzgibbon said he accepted the recommendation of the board of directors and that Leblanc is the most qualified person for the job.