Quebec Housing Minister, France-Élaine Duranceau, is currently under scrutiny by Ariane Mignolet, the National Assembly’s ethics commissioner.
The investigation centers around an alleged professional meeting held on December 5, 2022, involving the minister, her friend, and business collaborator, Annie Lemieux. According to a press release issued on Tuesday, Lemieux was representing the Minister in her capacity as a lobbyist during the meeting.
Just last week, Pivot, a media outlet, shed light on Lemieux’s active lobbying role for the housing minister and confirmed that the pair had indeed met.
Liberal MNA Monsef Derraji brought this to the attention of the ethics commissioner, prompting the formal investigation. “The request forwarded to the Commissioner suggests that there is a reasonable belief that the Minister might have violated sections 15 and 16 of the Code, both related to conflicts of interest,” revealed the press release.
When asked for a statement on the investigation, the minister’s office chose to abstain from comment.
Premier François Legault came to the defence of his minister during a press briefing on Monday, assuring that Minister Duranceau had consulted with the ethics commissioner prior to the meeting with her business partner. “France-Élaine met with the ethics commissioner and was told that it was acceptable. So she took the required steps,” Legault stated.
Contradicting the Premier’s claims, two sources intimately connected with the case revealed that the ethics commissioner was uninformed about the meeting between Minister Duranceau and Lemieux.
Pivot’s expose also uncovered that Minister Duranceau had engaged in a real estate “flip” – a practice which, while legal, is often criticized. Duranceau purchased a duplex in Montreal for over $500,000 in 2019, redeveloped it into five condominiums, and sold each for a price ranging between $400,000 and $800,000.
“Flips” have been termed “extremely problematic” by Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante due to their tendency to inflate prices.
When asked if Duranceau was suitably equipped to resolve the housing crisis, the Prime Minister responded, “Without a doubt, France-Élaine’s experience in real estate is undeniable, and I believe her knowledge in the field is advantageous.”