Québec City, January 13, 2006 – The Chief Electoral Officer of Québec, Me Marcel Blanchet, has announced the appointment Hon. Bernard Grenier, a retired Québec Court judge, as the investigating commissioner in charge of examining certain allegations made in the book Les secrets d’Option Canada, by Normand Lester and Robin Philpot, and more specifically all the documents submitted by the authors. This appointment follows the Chief Electoral Officer’s decision last Decem ber to review its investigation into Option Canada. The investigating commissioner will check especially if certain expenses incurred during the referendum period preceding the referendum of October 30, 1995, were legal as per the financing rules contained in the Special version of the Election Act for the holding of a referendum. "It is necessary to shed light on this issue," insists Me Blanchet, " in order to avoid compromising public confidence in our electoral legislation."
Me Bernard Grenier was admitted to the Québec Bar in 1967. He was a judge in Québec Court, criminal and penal division, from 1980 to 2002. He has also been a member of the Professions Tribunal, president of the Société de criminologie du Québec and interim director of the National Judicial Institute in Ottawa. His career as a criminal jurist led him to participate in various projects aimed at criminal law reform and to serve in several organizations in the legal field. He has also taught at the school of the Québec Bar, Université de Montréal and McGill University.
To enable him conduct his inquiry adequately, Me Grenier will have the powers of a commissioner appointed under the Act Respecting Inquiry Commissions, meaning that he can subpoena witnesses and require them to produce documents. He has to submit his report to the Chief Electoral Officer latest June 21, 2006, unless he demands an extension. The Chief Electoral Officer will subsequently make Me Moisan’s report public.
A detailed review of the legislative provisions that accord powers of inquiry to the Chief Electoral Officer and, specifically, a review of the scope of sections 491 to 494 of the Special version of the Election Act for the holding of a referendum led Me Blanchet to conclude that t he Chief Electoral Officer does not have the power to hold a public inquiry. Proceeding otherwise would place the investigating commissioner in a situation where his mandate and work could be legally challenged. "Given the nature of his duties," explains Me Blanchet, "the Chief Electoral Office is not a court; his role is rather to determine if there was a violation of the law and to then refer the matter to the courts to deal with it." Besides, although the law gives my institution certain powers of a commission of inquiry, it does not authorize the Chief Electoral Officer to launch a real commission of inquiry that could hold public hearings." Under the Act Respecting Public Inquiry Commissions, only the government has the power to launch a public inquiry.
It is worth noting that the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec has never held a public inquiry. " Me Bernard Grenier’s report will, however, contain clear conclusions as much as available evidence will permit, regarding violations that may have been committed between October 1, 1995 and October 30, 1995, which represents the 1995 referendum period. »
It should be recalled that the law prevents the Chief Electoral Officer from taking legal action against possible violators if the incidents in question are more than five years old. The inquiry is being conducted chiefly to ensure transparency and it could enable the Chief Electoral Officer to make recommendations on ways to improve the rules governing political party financing during referendums.
* At the request of Judge Bernard Grenier, the Chief Electoral Officer, Me Marcel Blanchet, extended his investigation mandate on
A new deadline for the submission of his investigation report has been set: