Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press The Quebec Minister of Economy and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, during a speech in the Assembly national, December 9
After revealing his involvement in the process of selecting the next boss of Hydro-Québec, the Minister of Economy and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, admitted Thursday that he had not yet read the law governing in particular the choice of the head of the state-owned company.
Mr. Fitzgibbon said the process set out in the Hydro-Quebec Act is “very rigorous”, although he admits he still hasn't read it, nearly four months after being given the responsibility of the company to 'State.
“The Hydro-Québec Act, I don't know it,” he said in a scrum, before question period.
The Minister was unable to say what exactly the Hydro-Québec Act provides for in the process of selecting the President and Chief Executive Officer.
“I don't remember , I think… I haven't read, I don't know the law,” he said.
Mr. Fitzgibbon testified that his knowledge of the Hydro-Québec Act is based on a summary given to him. According to him, this way of proceeding is the same as in the private companies where he has made a career.
“Governance is very clear,” he said. I spent 20 years of my life in governance. The board of directors of an entity must go through a process to find a candidate. After that, in the case of Hydro-Québec, the shareholder is the government, the government will decide. »
Very thick law
Mr. Fitzgibbon said he will read the law but he did not say whether he will before or after the selection process is complete.
“I will read it, but it is very thick the law “, he said.
Earlier this week, the Minister lifted the veil on the active role he plays on the sidelines of the selection process which, according to the Hydro-Québec Act, is the responsibility of the Board of Directors of Hydro-Québec.
After casting doubt on the importance he would give to the recommendation made to him by the directors and on the possibility that the next president and chief executive officer would not be from Quebec, Mr. Fitzgibbon felt the need to clarify his remarks in a social media post, Wednesday.
“There is no doubt that the next president and director of Hydro-Québec will be a Quebecer,” he wrote on Twitter. The board of directors has the role of recommending candidates to the Council of Ministers, which will choose the person best suited to develop the state-owned company.
Repeating provisions that apply to all government corporations, the Hydro-Québec Act establishes that the government appoints, “on the recommendation of the board of directors”, the president and chief general of the Crown corporation.
Interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay expressed regret on Thursday to learn that Mr. Fitzgibbon has still not read the Hydro-Quebec Act.
“”Superminister” Pierre Fitzgibbon says he will finally respect the law on Hydro-Quebec, he wrote on Twitter. Afterwards, he admits that he has not read it, BUT that he will try to read it, even if it “is very thick the law. “It's not serious…”
The “superminister _ @MinFitzgibbon says he will finally respect the law on Hydro-Quebec. After, he admits not having read it, BUT that he will try to read it, even if it “is very thick the law. It's not serious… #polqc https://t.co/Wtv7TseRXV
— Marc Tanguay (@marc_tanguay) February 16, 2023
In the Chamber, Thursday, the first Minister François Legault had to answer questions from the Liberal opposition, who were worried about seeing the integrity of the selection process compromised.
“We are going to have a recommendation from the board of directors of Hydro-Québec, then, as is usual, it will be ratified by the Council of Ministers”, assured the Prime Minister
In 2019, Mr. Fitzgibbon found himself at the center of a controversy after the appointment of a friend of his, Guy LeBlanc, as head of Investissement Québec, a Crown corporation for which he is responsible as Minister of the Economy.
Following an investigation, the Ethics Commissioner of the National Assembly, Ariane Mignolet, concluded that Mr. Fitzgibbon had not committed any violation of the code.
“Some could have wished for more restraint on the part of the Minister during the process of appointing the President and CEO of Investissement Québec, but this element alone does not allow me to conclude that there has been a breach”, he said. -she writes.
Ms. Mignolet had noted that the minister had been involved “at each stage, from the start of the selection process”, in addition to suggesting the candidacy. He also gave the names of potential candidates to the selection committee, including that of Mr. LeBlanc.
“He comments on the documents, proposes candidates and gives his opinion on the list of names in the pool of candidates she wrote in her report.
Ms. Mignolet revealed that Mr. Fitzgibbon had had contact on this subject with the president of the board of directors of IQ as well as with the representative of 'a headhunting firm hired as part of the process.
“The Minister does not attend the interviews, but has communications with the members of the selection committee during the process,” said the report.
The Minister had also insisted that the selection committee give him the names of two finalists, while the President of the Board pointed out that the law provided for the recommendation of only one name.
According to the report, Mr. Fitzgibbon announced the choice of Mr. LeBlanc to the government on March 17, 2019, when the The directors had not yet sent him their two recommendations.