Meeting with Geneviève Guilbault | Bereaved couple pays $200

(Quebec) Élizabeth Rivera and Antoine Bittar, who lost their daughter in a road accident, were invited by a political employee of a CAQ MP to pay $200 to attend a fundraising cocktail in the presence of the Minister of Transports, Geneviève Guilbault, in order to advance their cause to tighten sanctions against drunk driving.

The two bereaved parents, who are respectively president and director of the Montreal branch of the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Montreal), testified Thursday as part of the public hearings of the parliamentary committee concerning the project of law 48 on road safety. They are calling for Quebec to adopt administrative sanctions for drivers with a blood alcohol level starting at 0.05.

In an exchange with liberal MP Monsef Derraji, Mrme Rivera explained that Mr. Bittar met last June with the CAQ MP for Soulanges, Marilyne Picard. An employee of her office, she said, then contacted the couple to inform them that Minister Guilbault would be present at a CAQ fundraising activity in October, and that they could each obtain a ticket ( at a cost of $100) to have two minutes with her.

“We had our two minutes and honestly, when I left the place, I was really disappointed. I found it unacceptable that we were asked to pay $200 to meet the minister,” said Rivera.

” In my opinion, […] It was important that we met the minister. I was told this is the opportunity to be able to talk about our history, about the 0.05,” she explained. Mr. Bittar also affirmed that in his opinion this was “the only chance [qu’ils avaient] to be able to speak to Mme Guilbault” and that he did not understand why he had to pay $100.

When Mr. Derraji asked further questions to Rivera and Mr. Bittar on their meeting with Geneviève Guilbault, the president of the commission, the CAQ deputy François Jacques, intervened to stop the exchange. He said the Liberal MP was straying from the subject of the bill.

Guilbault defends himself, Picard apologizes

At the end of the commission, Minister Guilbault confirmed that she met the couple during a fundraising cocktail in Soulanges last October. “I didn’t know that they would be present when I went to the event,” she said, noting that the cocktail was organized by her fellow MP Marilyne Picard and her team.


MP Marilyne Picard

In a long press scrum later in the afternoon, Mme Guilbault strongly defended his integrity and that of his colleague. She acknowledged that the couple should never have had to contribute to the party to meet her.

“It saddens me if that person, in retrospect, did not appreciate it or would have preferred to proceed differently. Like I tell you, if they had sent me a request, I could have met them,” she said.

“If there was awkwardness, if there were people accidentally uncomfortable because of something that yes followed the rules, but which perhaps made this lady feel uncomfortable- there, I’m sorry about that,” added Mme Guilbault. She then accused her opponents of using the story “to serve a partisan political cause.”

According to the minister, it was “unintentional” if the CAQ gave them the impression that they had to make a donation to obtain an interview with it. “If they felt stuck, that’s unfortunate,” she said. Since last week, “we are no longer doing popular financing, the question has been resolved. Our access is not monetizable,” she added.

On social networks, Mme Picard, for his part, confirmed that one of his “collaborators [a informé Mme Rivera et M. Bittar] of holding a fundraising activity in which Minister Guilbault participated.

“This was an error in judgment, and I sincerely apologize, on behalf of myself and my team,” she wrote.

“My family and I experienced a similar tragedy. This is what brought us together, Rivera, Mr. Bittar and I, when they approached me to accompany them in the cause they are carrying,” explained Picard.

In the end, for Mr. Bittar, “what bothers me the most is that we came to […] ask the government to come down from.08 to.05 aiming to convince her of the importance of saving lives.” He fears the fundraising cocktail story could derail his message.

But on the merits, decided Thursday Mme Guibault, put in place administrative sanctions for drivers with a blood alcohol level from 0.05, as requested by the couple, “that is not part of [du] road safety action plan” of the government.

Legault throws stones at his adversaries

In the morning, before the testimony of the two bereaved parents in a parliamentary committee, Prime Minister François Legault for his part accused his adversaries of having thrown “mud” at his party in recent weeks, while his team is accused of having paid for access to ministers. Last week, the CAQ announced that it was giving up its popular funding.

At the exit of the parliamentary committee, where Mme Rivera and Mr. Bittar testified Thursday, leaving opposition lawmakers in shock.

“We are at an extremely high level of decisions that are completely filthy. It’s mind-blowing,” denounced Quebec Solidaire MP Etienne Grandmont.

PQ MP Pascal Bérubé claimed to have a “long” list of cases only for the Rimouski constituency. He notably cited the case of the president of the forest producers’ union of Bas-Saint-Laurent and of a director of a foundation which “raises funds for a hospital” who allegedly participated in a financing cocktail to have access to a CAQ minister.

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