Legault denies having been subjected to pressure from the pesticide industry

Legault se défend d’avoir subi des pressions de l’industrie des pesticides

GATINEAU — The government’s Legault denies having been subjected to pressure from the pesticide industry to dismiss an employee.

The agronomist Louis Robert, an expert in the grain industry, had condemned the interference of the private in the public research on the use of pesticides.

On January 24, he was dismissed, by decision of the minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, to have transmitted a confidential document to a reporter, as well as for having contravened the obligations of discretion, according to the letter of dismissal that was made public Wednesday.

The liberal opposition says that it is “unacceptable” and “immoral” to dismiss a whistleblower.

In a press briefing Thursday morning in Gatineau, where elected officials caquistes are brought together for two days, the minister of Agriculture had to go back on the controversy and his boss, prime minister François Legault, has had to make his defence.

When journalists have asked Mr. Lamontagne if the industry had asked for the dismissal of Mr Robert, he at first refused to comment.

But the media highlighted: is this the industry has requested his dismissal and there has been pressures?

“Certainly not me, certainly not me, I have no links at all with that,” he finally answered.

Mr. Lamontagne had said the previous day that he had taken personally the decision to dismiss him, adding on Thursday that he has confidence in his team.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mr. Legault has wanted to cut short any suggestion about undue influence or pressure on his minister or his government.

“It would be wrong to know him (Mr. Lamontagne), it would be wrong to get to know me. It is not purchasable, to the CAQ. I say to you. And it will apply equally to these groups as for others.”

The minister of Agriculture has also refused to clarify whether or not a survey had been conducted regarding a possible interference of the pesticide industry in the research.

He indicated that his decision to dismiss the employee was “not a repudiation” for whistleblowers.

What the law says

Recall that, according to the current law on whistleblowers, a person may choose to disclose the information to his or her ministry, or even to communicate a body of police or the Commissioner of the fight against corruption.

For its part, the Syndicat des professionnels du government du Quebec (SPGQ) said Wednesday that it would defend its member till the end.

The SPGQ supports never having seen a case of a dismissal, direct a minister to a public servant who is five levels lower than him.

According to the union, the minister puts himself on the side of those who produce potentially harmful pesticides, in this public health issue where there are big financial interests.

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