The cat is out of the bag on who the government has nominated to run Quebec’s anti-corruption unit, UPAC, thanks to a leak in the media.
Quebec Premier François Legault has said the new chief will be able to turn the page on the various problems facing the unit. The next head of the province’s anti-corruption squad has his work cut out for him: turn the organization around and win back public confidence.
“This is an important gesture that we (MNAs) all share the responsibility of — nominating the next person who will direct the UPAC for the next seven years,” said Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault.
Since its inception, UPAC has been in embroiled in controversy, including allegations of intimidation, a toxic work environment and the high-profile arrest of a sitting MNA in 2017. Last October, on provincial election day, then-commissioner, Robert Lafrenière abruptly quit.
There have also been leaks to media about its ongoing investigations — and now a new piece of information has been leaked: the government’s candidate for the top job is the man who already has it, interim commissioner Frédérick Gaudreau, a former Sûreté du Québec officer.
“I won’t comment on rumours or articles in the media,” Guilbault said.
The government isn’t confirming Gaudreau’s nomination, but opposition parties aren’t keeping quiet about the news.
“We were very disappointed. It’s a slap in the face in terms of the non-respect of the process,” said Marc Tanguay, Liberal house leader.
The CAQ government’s first order of business once elected was to change the way the UPAC commissioner is chosen. The appointment now requires support from two-thirds of the National Assembly.
All political parties will get a chance to interview the candidate before voting, but the Parti Québécois (PQ) and Québec Solidaire say they wanted a civilian to take over UPAC.
“It would have been more easier to assure us that he was not participant in the little inside war that was going on in UPAC in the past years,” said QS MNA Alexandre Leduc.
“We are going to meet him, we’re going to ask some questions, but it’s not the way we see it. We think we could easily find someone outside the organization,” said PQ interim leader Pascal Bérubé.
The government expects to have the new commissioner in place by the end of October.