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Trade assistance: Fitzgibbon confirms he has no conflict of interest

Trade assistance: Fitzgibbon confirms he has no conflict of interest

Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon has expressed satisfaction with the Legault government’s supportive interventions for businesses during the pandemic. He maintains that he never invested or was an investor in the companies for which he authorized loans, even though they did not meet the selection criteria.

• Read also: Corporate Assistance Programs: $68 million for companies that did not meet the criteria

On Wednesday, in its annual report, the Auditor General (VG), Guylaine Leclerc, noted some transparency problems in the management of the Enterprises Interim Coordinated Work Program (PACTE).

She criticizes, among other things, the fact that not all companies were aware that Minister Fitzgibbon had the power to authorize a loan to a company that did not meet all the criteria for the program, because this information was not publicly disclosed.

“I can assure you today that among the companies that have been identified, I have no shareholder and none of them are. […] Mr. Fitzgibbon defended Mr. Secretary never paying a file.

According to VG, the minister has authorized at least 10 loans of more than $5 million following analyzes and recommendations. However, these companies did not meet the criteria for selecting PACTE. Investissement Québec was responsible for granting loans or loan guarantees.

Already in trouble

Of those 10 loans, six were paid to companies that were already experiencing “significant financial difficulties before the pandemic”. In one case, IQ’s regional network segment rejected funding twice.

It should be noted that the Voluntary Guidelines in its report did not question the validity of this assistance. But the identity of the targeted companies has not been revealed.

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“I look at the report on what happened during the pandemic and I’m very happy with the government. I think we’ve been very good at business,” Fitzgibbon said.

The latter says it was consulted on about “25 files” out of the nearly 10,000 processed under the PACTE programme. He does not believe that it was possible to “normalize” all the criteria for making a loan. He says he prefers to show flexibility at Investissement Québec.

“When we look at the number of business closings in Quebec compared to what we saw before the pandemic, we are 34% less. And the programs have worked,” the Minister of Economy lauded.

More transparency

On Wednesday, the Parti Québécois party called on Legault’s government to reveal the name and documents related to the companies targeted by VG.

“I find it unacceptable that the secretary uses only his taste, in the end, to give companies discretion, and I request, in fact, that we have access to these documents,” asked PQ member and economic critic Megan Berry Melanson.

On the Quebec Solidere side, Ruba Ghazal, Quebec’s chief economics officer, is concerned that some companies may have had an advantage over others.

“I ask the minister to be transparent: which companies gave these huge sums and why? She stressed that these are public funds and not monopoly money.

– In collaboration with Nicolas Lachance

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