Jean Pelletier


Jean Pelletier

Jean Pelletier (born February 21, 1935, in Chicoutimi, Quebec) is a Canadian politician, who was formerly mayor of Quebec City, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister's Office, and chairman of VIA Rail. He has been a leading organizer of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Early career

He began his political career with the "Union Nationale" party, and was elected mayor of Quebec City in 1977, a position he held until 1988. With the demise of the "Union Nationale", he joined the Liberal Party. He was an unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the 1993 election, which saw the party capture few Quebec seats outside of their federalist stronghold of Montreal.

In 1985, Pelletier was made a Member of the Order of Canada and promoted to Officer in 2003. In 1990, he was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec.

Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister

He has long been a close ally and a very close friend of Jean Chrétien. They have known each other for years, having first met at boarding school while still youths. They attended law school together and earned similar reputations as being aggressive. When Chrétien became Prime Minister in 1993, Pelletier became his Chief of Staff, making him head of the Prime Minister's Office.

VIA Rail Controversy

On May 4, 2001, Chrétien appointed Pelletier chairman of VIA Rail, a Crown corporation.LCN (April 26, 2001), [http://lcn.canoe.com/infos/national/archives/2001/04/20010426-092352.html "Jean Pelletier quitte le cabinet Chrétien pour la direction de Via Rail"] (in french). Retrieved March 30, 2007.] Soon after, Chrétien promised an extra C$700 million to improve VIA's service.

On March 1, 2004, Pelletier and VIA President Marc LeFrançois were fired by Prime Minister Paul Martin and Transport Minister Tony Valeri. Their dismissals were shortly after the Liberal Party became embroiled in the sponsorship scandal. Pelletier was one of four Chrétien loyalists sacked from jobs at Crown corporations by Martin's government during the sponsorship scandal. VIA was accused of skipping mandated procedures in order to hand out contracts to Liberal-friendly firms and individuals. Pelletier, however, was not at VIA for most of these occurrences, and the Martin government was accused of using an incident as an excuse to remove one of Chrétien's allies.

He was dismissed instead for remarks he made to Montreal's "La Presse" newspaper attacking Olympic athlete Myriam Bédard. Talking about Bédard, who had held a marketing position at VIA and had gone to the media with stories of corruption, Pelletier said "I don't want to be mean, but this is a poor girl who deserves pity, who doesn't have a spouse, as far as I know." He later reiterated that "She is struggling as a single mother with economic responsibilities. Deep down, I think she is pitiful." This caused an immediate media fracas and the remarks were widely condemned as sexist and out-of-touch by women's groups, sports groups and others. Bédard has since made further allegations that were met with widespread skepticism.

On March 30, 2004, Pelletier sued VIA and the federal government for C$3 million, for defamation and illegal dismissal. A federal court ruled that dismissal did not follow due process and ordered him reinstated in November 2005. Although he was reinstated, the government appealed the court ruling and kept him off the payroll. On December 22, 2005, he was fired a second time, this time after the government ensured that due process was followed. Pelletier has filed suit in Quebec Superior Court alleging wrongful dismissal; Transport Minister Jean Lapierre issued a written statement noting that the recent dismissal is effective immediately and that Pelletier will not receive compensation due to his suit against the government.Clark, Campbell; Globe and Mail (December 23 2005), " [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20051223.wxpelle1223/BNStory/National/ Liberals fire Pelletier from railway - Again] ". Retrieved December 23, 2005.]

After the 2006 federal election, Reg Alcock, the outgoing President of the Treasury Board, did approve $40,000 to assist Pelletier with legal fees in a court challenge against the Gomery Commission. Representatives of other parties criticized this payment, saying that the government should only cover legal costs for working civil servants. Pelletier's lawyer argued that it followed a long-standing government policy for high-ranking functionaries in judicial proceedings. [Tu Thanh Ha, "Treasury Board to review legal-fees offer to Pelletier", "Globe and Mail", April 26, 2006, A10.]

A Federal Court justice ruled in March 2007 that the Martin government acted improperly in 2005 when it fired Pelletier a second time, immediately after a court overturned his first dismissal as head of Via Rail. Justice Francois Lemieux ruled that then-Transport Minister Jean Lapierre, who fired Pelletier the second time, was biased and failed to follow proper procedures. [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071122/pelletier_court_071122/20071122?hub=CTVNewsAt11] On November 22, 2007, Judge Hélène Langlois of Quebec Superior Court ruled that government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had acted in a "cavalier and precipitous" fashion when it fired Pelletier. Langloise stated, "that behaviour doesn't meet the standard of diligence expected from a contractor when a contractual relationship is ended. It shows a total lack of consideration". Langlois also mentioned that people refused to walk on the same side of the street as Pelletier while others called him names in public. Pelletier was awarded $235,000 in lost income, and a further $100,000 for damaging his reputation. He had sued for $689,000 in financial losses and $3.3 million for moral damages. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071123.PELLETIER23/TPStory/National]

Pelletier is currently seeking to overturn the findings of Gomery Inquiry, which found no evidence of specific wrongdoing on his part but blamed him for not exercising better political control of the sponsorship program. [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071122/pelletier_court_071122/20071122?hub=CTVNewsAt11]

References


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