Quebec premier’s office accuses Parti Québécois byelection candidate of lying

Parti Québécois candidate Pascal Paradis speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Quebec City. Francis Vachon/The Canadian Press

The provincial byelection for Quebec City’s Jean-Talon riding has yet to be called, but tensions are already running high between the Parti Québécois and the CAQ.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, Thursday afternoon, Quebec Premier François Legault shared a statement from his spokesperson referring to PQ candidate Pascal Paradis as a “liar” over conflicting claims regarding a potential cabinet role for Paradis if he were to run for the CAQ and a CAQ electoral promise on a highway tunnel project.

The scuffle between the two parties began on Wednesday when Legault said Paradis was approached by the CAQ to be a possible candidate in the last electoral campaign.

He told reporters Paradis met with CAQ executive director Brigitte Legault last summer, and then with the premier’s chief of staff, Martin Koskinen, to discuss the possibility of becoming a CAQ candidate. The premier told reporters he believes the meeting was a mutual encounter, but that it was possible the CAQ approached Paradis first.

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“Mr. Paradis then asked Mr. Koskinen if he had a strong chance of becoming a minister. Mr. Koskinen then spoke with me,” Legault told reporters Wednesday. “I told him it was out of the question to guarantee Mr. Paradis a position as minister and the discussions ended there.”

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The premier’s claims pushed PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon to come out of his parental leave a day early, taking to social media with a lengthy response.

“Pascal Paradis never approached the CAQ and never asked anything of the CAQ,” St-Pierre Plamondon wrote. “Pascal Paradis refused the CAQ’s offer. One of the reasons was that he was at first offered the role of Capitale nationale minister, only for that offer to then be withdrawn.”

On Thursday, as the PQ officially presented Paradis as its candidate for the Jean-Talon riding, the candidate then claimed the CAQ knew it would not be moving ahead with its “third link” highway tunnel project, even as it made it one of its key electoral promises in the region.

Paradis says he told Koskinen he was against the tunnel project, and says Koskinen then hinted that the project would be dropped, but only after the 2022 election campaign.

“It was clear in our discussions that the third link would not go ahead,” Paradis said.

On Thursday afternoon, the premier’s office replied to that with a lengthy statement of its own on X, accusing both the PQ and Paradis of lying.

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“The truth must be told: Martin Koskinen never promised a ministerial position to Mr. Paradis,” the statement reiterates.

“The third link was a firm commitment from our government. Before the updated studies were released last April, it was never a question of going back on it. Martin Koskinen never mentioned anything of the sort.”

Global News has reached out to Paradis for comment.

The Jean-Talon riding has been vacant since former CAQ MNA Joëlle Boutin stepped down last month. The premier has until six months after her resignation to call a byelection.

The CAQ has not officially confirmed its candidate, but it has been widely reported as being Marie-Anik Shoiry, founder of non-profit Vide ta sacoche.

On Friday, the Quebec Liberal Party announced it would be adding Élise Avard Bernier, who started the blog Vie de parents, to the race. She joins Québec Solidaire candidate and court stenographer Olivier Bolduc and Climat Québec Leader Matine Ouellet, who are also vying for the Jean-Talon seat.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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