Quebec ag minister pulled from caucus

Quebec’s agriculture minister has been removed from the provincial government’s cabinet and caucus, the premier’s office said Thursday.

In a short press release, Premier Philippe Couillard said he was informed Thursday evening that Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis is the subject of a police investigation.

Given the circumstances, Paradis has been relieved of ministerial duties and “excluded” from the Liberal government caucus, the release said.

Transport Minister Laurent Lessard, a former provincial agriculture minister (2007-09, 2010-11), was sworn in Thursday as minister for agriculture, food and fisheries. Lessard will also continue to handle the transport file, Couillard said.

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The specific nature of the police inquiry wasn’t mentioned in Thursday’s release.

An even shorter announcement from Couillard’s office Wednesday had said only that Paradis would be temporarily off work and Lessard would handle the portfolio in the meantime.

Several Quebec news outlets on Wednesday had quoted a ministerial spokesperson as saying Paradis, 66, suffered a concussion in a fall from a horse a few days earlier and was under doctor’s orders to rest.

A ministerial spokesperson was not immediately available to confirm those reports Wednesday.

Thursday evening, however, news outlets including Radio Canada, the Montreal Gazette and TVA reported Paradis is the subject of an inquiry by the Surete du Quebec (SQ), the provincial police force.

TVA, citing information from an unnamed source, reported Thursday evening that the investigation follows an alleged “altercation” at a Quebec City-area bar.

Paradis has been the MNA for the Monteregie riding of Brome-Missisquoi since 1980 and the province’s agriculture minister since April 2014.

Paradis previously served in cabinet portfolios including environment and municipal affairs and had chaired the Quebec assembly’s agriculture, food and fisheries committee from 2007 to 2012. He also ran unsuccessfully against Robert Bourassa for the provincial Liberal leadership in 1983. — AGCanada.com Network

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