One of the more interesting political stories in Québec at the moment involves the new environment minister, Daniel Breton and the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement. On a visit to the BAPE's offices in October, Breton allegedly told members of the BAPE that he would telephone the chairperson whenever the BAPE made a recommendation he disagreed with, before demanding their cell phone numbers.
This came after Breton fired the previous chair and vice-chair.
Given the minority status of the Parti Québécois, it has been unable to avoid the initiation of a parliamentary inquiry. Minister Breton, who denies the allegations, will have to answer to his colleagues in the Assemblé Nationale.
One can understand the concern of the other political parties. The BAPE is an organ independent of government which reports on matters of environmental importance, sometimes after public consultations. By virtue of s. 6.5 of their constitutive statute, members of the BAPE "possèdent,
pour les fins des enquêtes qui leur sont confiées, les pouvoirs et
l'immunité des commissaires nommés en vertu de la Loi sur les
commissions d'enquête". This may not mean that the body is quasi-judicial in all its functions, but it speaks to the serious role the body is supposed to play.
The allegations against Minister Breton are troubling. It will be interesting to see what comes of the parliamentary inquiry. Hopefully, the deputies from the Coalition Avenir Québec and the Parti Liberal will not undermine the commission by seeking to score political points.