Ex-Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau's trial could start sooner than planned

Former Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, and her six co-accused, may stand trial on corruption-related charges sooner than expected. 

Normandeau's lawyer, Maxime Roy, told Radio-Canada this week that the Crown wants to skip the preliminary inquiry, which is normally used to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial to proceed. 

The one-time deputy premier was arrested last year along with her former chief of staff, Bruno Lortie, former Liberal cabinet minister and fundraiser Marc-Yvan Côté, two former Parti Québécois staffers and several figures associated with the engineering firm Roche (now known as Norda Stelo).

Normandeau and her co-accused are facing a slew of charges related to a contract awarded for a water-treatment plant in Boisbriand, Que.

Her preliminary inquiry was scheduled to start in early June. But Normandeau's lawyer said they recently received a letter from the Crown advising them they ha sought permission to proceed with a direct indictment.

A direct indictment is a legal proceeding that bypasses the preliminary inquiry. It's up to the attorney general to decide whether a direct indictment should be allowed. 

In July 2016, lawyers for Normandeau told a judge they plan to argue there isn't enough evidence to justify a trial.

The next court appearance on the matter will be May 8, 2017.

$11-million contract

Normandeau and others were arrested following an investigation by Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC, into a contract for a water-treatment plant in Boisbriand, Que. that was awarded in 2007.

According to public documents, Normandeau — who was municipal affairs minister at the time — overruled the advice of senior bureaucrats to award the $11-million contract to engineering firm Roche. 

Roche also did fundraising for Normandeau during her time as an MNA and Liberal party candidate.

Normandeau's name came up frequently at the Charbonneau Commission, the province's corruption inquiry.

Her lawyer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing on her part.

Her charges come with a maximum sentence of 12 years.