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Despite the existence of a law prohibiting Quebec elected officials from receiving gifts worth more than $200, Quebec's minister of economic development Pierre Fitzgibbon indulged in a pheasant hunting trip on a private island. He was invited there by wealthy businessmen who benefit from public subsidies.
The island in question is owned by a numbered company owned in part by Paul Desmarais and Jean-Louis Fontaine: the president of Power Corporation and a former executive of Bombardier, respectively. These two companies are the first and third largest in Quebec, with revenues in the tens of billions of dollars.
This hunting match with the minister comes shortly after his government provided more than $100 million in loans, investments and financial assistance to companies associated with Power Corporation, the mega-corporation of the wealthy Desmarais family that has been criticized for its major influence on federal policy.
As for Bombardier, it has received more than $2 billion in financial assistance from the Quebec government in recent years. This massive injection of public money coincides with significant compensation increases for Bombardier's top executives, who received an average bonus of $4.2 million in 2021. By comparison, the average Bombardier employee earns just over $130,000 per year. This amount jumped by $25,000 after 56,000 employees were laid off.
These billions of dollars in financial aid do not even seem to be enough to keep the company's operations in Quebec. Indeed, since 2015, Bombardier has been moving its operations to plants in Mexico, India and Morocco, where it is possible for the company to pay their employees much less for the same work.
The private island hunting party resulted in the sixth investigation of Pierre Fitzgibbon by the Ethics Commissioner in less than four years. The fifth investigation, launched less than a month ago, dealt with $50 million in assistance to LMPG (in which Power Corporation is a majority shareholder), a company formerly run by the Minister himself and now run by the trustee of Fitzgibbon's trust.
Other investigations included the Minister's investments in several companies with ties to the Quebec government and the appointment of Guy Leblanc as head of Investissement Québec, despite Fitzgibbon's interest in his son's company.
In response to the media storm caused by this affair, Minister Fitzgibbon says he will continue his hunting trips on the private island and maintains that he has done nothing wrong.