On Gilles Duceppe's use of parliamentary funds and the ensuing media war

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In the wake of the controversy that has surrounded Gilles Duceppe over the past week, there has emerged a media war as well.

As J-Source’s French-language counterpart, ProjetJ, reports, La Presse broke the story on Saturday that the former Bloc Québécois leader had used money from his parliamentary budget to pay employees. They asserted that this apparent use of public money to pay those participating in partisan activity was a breach of House of Commons regulations.

Le Devoir looked into the issue itself, making a phone call to the House of Commons communications department, which told the publication that the transactions were actually within the rules. The Le Devoir article said that Duceppe’s payments did not cost Canadian taxpayers anything.

As well, The Montreal Gazette reports that Duceppe acknowledged that the Bloc’s director, Gilbert Gardner, had been paid through the parliamentary budget, though his advisers had received advice from legal experts that made them believe this was within the rules.

ProjetJ covered the differences in reporting between La Presse and Le Devoir and why they may have handled things the way that they each respectively did. Thierry Giasson, principal investigator of political communication research group at Laval University, told ProjectJ that he did not believe La Presse’s reporting was ideologically-driven — rather, it was driven by a race for a scoop. A race that is all too familiar in a time where stories are increasingly broke via Twitter.

The problem with this is, as ProjetJ notes, that the race for the scoop in this case may have irrevocably damaged Duceppe’s reputation, if Le Devoir was told correctly that Duceppe’s actions did not violate any rules. Since the La Presse story broke, Duceppe has said he will not make a political comeback, as originally planned, and NDP House leader Joe Comartin will be looking into the issue when Parliament reconvenes on Monday, according to The Gazette.

OpenFile Montreal has summed the controversy up in English, for those who may not want to follow along with the French-language sites linked here. 

Comments

I believe the reporting was Postmedia's Ottawa bureau, which was then posted at The Gazette and other Postmedia papers.

I recommand to read, also on ProjetJ, L'affaire Duceppe: d'abord du journalisme by Josée Boileau from Le Devoir. As she says: "Nous sommes tous, collectivement, à la recherche du scoop, et cette quête prend parfois, comme la semaine dernière, une tournure frénétique, et des sources sont bien heureuses de nous alimenter, et nous sommes bien contents de les écouter, ce qui nous fera vendre ou remarquer. Dans cette effervescence, on en oublie parfois ce réflexe de base: vé-ri-fier".

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