MONTREAL—Quebec treasury board president Sam Hamad says he is temporarily leaving his duties as a cabinet minister while he is being investigated by the province’s ethics commissioner.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters Saturday afternoon that Hamad will retain his postion, but his status will be similar to that of a minister on sick leave.
Couillard says he has confidence in Hamad.
The ethics commissioner launched an investigation into Hamad Friday after Radio-Canada claimed he may have passed strategic information to help advance the business interests of a horticultural firm that was looking to obtain a government grant in 2012.
In a statement, Hamad says he was only doing his job as a minister by “working to support a Quebec company with the goal of creating jobs and contributing to the economic development of a region.”
Hamad says he has done nothing wrong and requested the ethics investigation himself.
“Today, out of respect for the public office I hold, out of respect for our institutions and to avoid all distractions to the pursuit of the government’s mandate, I offered to the premier to no longer assume my duties during the commissioner’s verification,” it read.
Radio-Canada’s investigative program “Enquete” published a series of emails this week that it says show that Hamad passed information to former Liberal cabinet minister Marc-Yvan Cote to help obtain a government grant for Premier Tech, a horticultural company based in Riviere-du-Loup, on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence river.
Cote was a member of the board of directors at Premier Tech from 1994 until his arrest by the province’s anti-corruption unit on fraud and corruption charges last month.
Cote hasn’t commented publicly on the charges and is due to appear in court this month on the allegations.
Couillard said Hamad “is not guilty of anything.”
“I looked at the case of this company and the financial aid it received and frankly, there’s not a government that wouldn’t have proceeded to give that help,” he said outside the Montreal funeral of Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, the first woman elected to the Quebec legislature.