Quebec cabinet minister resigns after conflict-of-interest allegations: reports

A cabinet minister in Jean Charest’s provincial government has resigned following conflict-of-interest allegations, news reports said Wednesday.

Quebec Labour Minister David Whissell

QUEBEC — A cabinet minister in Jean Charest’s provincial government has resigned following conflict-of-interest allegations, news reports said Wednesday.

Labour Minister David Whissell is set to announce his decision to step down, said the reports from LCN and Radio-Canada television networks.

The youthful minister had come under fire over reports of untendered public contracts to a construction company he co-owns.

The blow arrives with Charest’s Liberals riding high in the polls a year into their third term, managing to elude controversy despite the recession and heavy losses at the province’s pension fund.

This period of smooth sailing came after a rocky, scandal-plagued first term for Charest. Observers credit personnel changes in his office and an aversion to controversial policy for his restored popularity.

But Whissell became the subject of unwanted attention in recent days.

The company ABC River-Nord, which Whissell co-owns, won $800,000 in government contracts — including one worth $564,000 for paving work in his own riding.

Quebec’s public-sector union called for an investigation on how the contracts were awarded without a public call for tenders.

Whissell reportedly plans to leave his cabinet post but will continue to represent the riding of Argenteuil in the provincial legislature.

He is expected to make the announcement alongside Charest.

Whissell said last week that he had always been transparent and had respected Quebec laws.

Under provincial law, a public call for tenders is necessary for any contract worth more than $100,000, expect in urgent cases or for work needed in remote areas.

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