Quebec Environment Minister Daniel Breton quit cabinet on Thursday
Credits: STEVENS LEBLANC/JOURNAL DE QUEBEC/AGENCE QMI
QUEBEC CITY - Quebec Environment Minister Daniel Breton quit cabinet on Thursday after QMI Agency revealed that he twice left landlords in the lurch and had his driver's licence revoked for speeding.
Breton, a noted environmentalist, held back tears and took no questions after a brief statement that ended a contentious 70-day stint in Pauline Marois' cabinet.
"This morning I submitted my resignation to the premier of Quebec," said Breton, a 40-year-old former columnist at the French CBC and Le Devoir newspaper.
"I did this because I didn't want to harm (Marois') work or the work of the government."
Breton said he will stay on as an MNA in his east-end Montreal riding.
He quit cabinet the same day a QMI Agency investigation revealed he owed nearly $8,000 to two landlords for failing to pay rent in 2004 and 2009, and that his driver's licence was revoked in May 2011 following multiple offences, including several speeding tickets.
Another news report this week revealed that Breton was fined $400 in 2007 for filing his provincial income taxes late, and fined another $300 in 1988 for violating employment insurance rules.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Marois said Breton offered to resign on Thursday morning.
She said the Parti Quebecois ran all of its prospective ministers through police checks, which revealed Breton's driving, employment insurance and tax offences but nothing else.
"For the rest, he never told me about unpaid rent," she said.
Asked if she would have named Breton to cabinet had she known about the outstanding rent, she replied,
"Listen, that's a hypothetical question and I don't believe I have to answer hypothetical questions."
In his brief resignation announcement, Breton suggested past financial problems were to blame for the infractions.
"I have lived through and known uncertainty," he said. "I know what it's like to lose a job, to lose an apartment, to live asking myself if I'll have food on the table that evening."
Breton's nomination as environment minister was controversial from the start because of his long history as a staunch environmentalist.
Opposition Liberals demanded he resign for holding a closed-door meeting last month with officials at Quebec's environmental assessment bureau.
Breton allegedly collected the cellphone numbers of bureau officials, prompting the Liberals to accuse him of political interference.
The CAQ, the third party in the legislature, demanded Thursday the PQ release the results of the police check on Breton.