Québec solidaire calls for further investigation into business loans approved by Fitzgibbon

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The request comes a day after the auditor general found that at least 10 Quebec companies had received government loans totaling $ 68 million, even though they were not eligible for funding.

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Québec solidaire on Thursday called on the auditor general of the province to deepen a series of discretionary loans granted to 10 companies by the Minister of the Economy of Quebec Pierre Fitzgibbon, accusing him of favoritism.

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The written request to Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc came the day after the tabling of her annual report, which showed that at least 10 Quebec companies benefited from government loans of $ 68 million in total even if they did not meet the required criteria. for the issuance of funds. .

In the letter to Leclerc, the deputy of Quebec solidaire Ruba Ghazal maintains that “there was clearly an unfair treatment and a lack of uniformity (in the issuance of loans), which is unacceptable”.

The other two opposition parties also sharply criticized the government, with liberal economic critic Monsef Derraji saying it was “clearly patronage”.

A study by the Auditor General of 22 loans granted under the Temporary Concerted Action Program for Enterprises (PACTE) revealed that nearly half of them contained irregularities. Québec solidaire would like a larger sample of loans to be examined.

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At the start of the pandemic, the Legault government created a $ 3 billion fund to finance two programs aimed at helping businesses maintain their liquidity during the crisis: PACTE and the Emergency Assistance Program for Small and Medium Enterprises (PAUPME ).

However, the management of these programs, created and overseen by Fitzgibbon, was inadequate and lacked transparency, Leclerc concluded.

A clause in the PACTE management guide allowed Fitzgibbon to adjust the criteria required for a company to obtain a loan according to “the needs of the file”, essentially allowing companies not eligible for a loan under the program to benefit nevertheless funding. .

“When we asked him if any of his acquaintances got any loans because of his interventions, he just said he knew everyone,” Derraji said. “Come on! Do you have to know the minister to get around the rules?

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Parti Québécois MP Pascal Bérubé demanded to know the names of the 10 ineligible companies that obtained loans, saying the least the minister could do would be to proactively publish the list.

But Fitzgibbon quickly refused to do so. “If I do that, businesses will stop coming to see Investissement Québec. It is confidential and it is out of the question that we divulge the lists, ”he told reporters.

He also dismissed the accusations of favoritism. “This is false because the projects go through Investissement Québec. There was no project that came from the minister’s office.

He said that out of 14,000 files, 25 reached his office and “it was Investissement Québec which concluded that there were strategic reasons for departing from the framework that was done in six days”.

  1. The Auditor General of Quebec, Guylaine Leclerc, unveils a report to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.

    Auditor General Says Quebec Has Granted $ 68 Million In Loans To Ineligible Businesses

  2. Quebec Minister of Economy and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon answers journalists' questions while Premier of Quebec François Legault, right, at a press conference on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec.  Fitzgibbon returned to Legault's cabinet after stepping down in June due to ethical lapses.

    Pierre Fitzgibbon returns as Minister of Economy, says he will run in 2022

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