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Couillard says perks given to ex-premiers are too much and last too long

MONTREAL — Jean Charest, nearly $370,000; Pauline Marois, about $130,000; and Bernard Landry, close to $140,000.

Those are the sums the three ex-premiers have cost the Quebec public since leaving office.

The numbers were obtained in documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws.

Quebec offers ex-premiers lavish perks for a three-year period after they leave office, including money to hire staff, buy equipment and rent office space — all at taxpayers’ expense.

Premier Philippe Couillard said Wednesday that premiers who leave office are given too many perks for too long a period.

He said he is ready to review the privileges afforded to leaders in their post-political life.

The documents show that Charest, who was premier between 2003 and 2012, charged the province $368,566 between April 2013 and this past February — with about $225,000 on office space and supplies and telecommunications-related costs.

Charest, who now works as a lawyer with McCarthy Tetreault, also billed the province more than $132,000 to hire five researchers and an administrative assistant.

And even though he has a government-issued car and driver-bodyguard, Charest submitted travel bills of about $12,000.

Charest’s successor, Pauline Marois, has charged the government a total of $129,276 since last June. She was premier between September 2012 and April 2014.

Bernard Landry, who was premier between 2001 and 2003 before leaving politics in 2005, billed Quebec for $138,612 for between April 2007 and June 2008. The numbers for the first two years were not available.

Couillard was visibly uncomfortable with the news, particularly due to the fact his government has embarked on an ambitious cost-cutting program to balance the budget.

He said he has a problem with the “duration of the privileges and the associated costs.”

“We want to bring them (costs) to a more reasonable level,” he said.

Official Opposition Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau said he was open to reviewing the generous perk system but didn’t elaborate.

Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press

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