Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tell-All Book Paints Unflattering Portrait Of Canada's Former FM

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="190" caption="Former Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier"]Former Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier[/caption]

OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada's disgraced ex-foreign minister Maxime Bernier faced new allegations in the midst of an election campaign with the release of excerpts on Wednesday from a book by his former girlfriend.

In "My Story," Bernier's ex-girlfriend accused him of being an egotistical womanizer who showed "surprising intellectual laziness," sloppily handled confidential papers, and often bad-mouthed constituents and his boss Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Excerpts of the book appeared in the French-language daily La Presse on Wednesday, just prior to a crucial political debate between Harper and other party leaders, and two weeks before an October 14 vote.

Julie Couillard, 38, accompanied Bernier at his swearing-in as foreign minister in mid-2007, and while they dated for less than a year, she was officially designated as Bernier's "spouse" so she could travel with him on government business.

A few months after they broke up, Canada's top diplomat resigned over reports he had left confidential documents at her home.

In her tell-all book set for release Monday, Couillard says Bernier privately opposed Canada's mission in Afghanistan, arguing it was more about controlling the heroin trade than fighting terrorism; and he believed Quebec separation from the rest of Canada was inevitable and he was ready for it.

Bernier also purportedly criticized Harper for his weight, hairstyle and wardrobe, and for drinking Pepsi at cabinet meetings, while harboring his own leadership ambitions, convinced Harper would not win a second term.

Bernier refused to comment specifically on the new allegations, except for the book's claim that he whispered disparaging words into Couillard's ear about his constituents at a corn roast in his electoral district of Beauce, Quebec.

This, he vehemently denied.

"We are dealing with a woman who is frustrated, who is looking for glory and visibility," he said in a local radio interview. "It was a mistake for me to go out with her, but that is in the past."

Her book, he told CHEQ-FM, was merely "bits of gossips and craziness."

At the time, Harper's government refused to discuss the couple's former relationship, amid mounting questions from opposition parties about Bernier's slip up and her ties to bikers, alleging possible security breaches.

Couillard was said to have been a target for assassination by the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, and once dated a biker who was later killed in a gangland slaying in 1996.

The following year, Couillard wed a member of a biker gang closely affiliated with the Hells Angels, who would become a police informant and testify in 2003 about an alleged hit planned on her by Hells Angels' kingpin in Quebec, Maurice Boucher.

The couple divorced in 1999.

Source: AFP - Goggle.Com

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