Quebec Liberal MNA Sam Hamad, a former cabinet minister whose ethical integrity has been called into question, has stepped down.
Hamad told reporters Thursday morning he has been thinking about resigning for a long time, and the news isn't related to explosive allegations made by Montreal's police union boss Thursday morning.
In an interview on 98.5 FM, Yves Francoeur said two members of the Quebec Liberal Party, including a current MNA, were the targets of a police investigation, but charges were never laid in the case.
Francoeur said he believes if they weren't Liberals, they'd have been charged already.
Hamad categorically denied that his resignation was tied to Francoeur's allegations.
He said he is returning to the world of business, the sphere in which he worked before he was first elected in 2003.
Politics "is an immense honour that comes with weighty responsibilities that I took on with integrity," he said during an emotional news conference at a Quebec City community centre.
He choked up several times, notably when speaking about immigrating to Quebec from Syria, starting a family and as he reflected on a 14-year career in politics.
He said he ran for office to give back to Quebec and Quebecers, but after years of missed dinners and not seeing his grandchildren, he said he wants to devote more time to his family.
"I want to regain the freedom that's pushed aside when one goes into politics," he said.
Sam Hamad by the numbers:
- Led seven ministries.
- Served on 11 ministerial committees.
- Piloted the adoption of 30 bills.
- Participated in 165 days of election campaigns.
- Attended 1,148 Question Periods.
- Passed 5,125 days as the elected representative of Louis-Hébert.
Hamad represented the riding of Louis-Hébert in the Quebec City region and most recently served as Treasury Board president before resigning in April 2016, following a report from Radio-Canada's Enquête that his relationship with a disgraced former Quebec Liberal Party fundraiser, Marc-Yvan Côté, placed him in a conflict of interest.
Quebec's ethics commissioner ruled that while Hamad failed to uphold the values of the National Assembly in his dealings with a disgraced party fundraiser, he shouldn't be sanctioned.
Hamad stayed on as an MNA but never returned to cabinet. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
At the news conference, he said he was leaving with his head held high.
"I think I [fought] for my honour and I [won]," he said.
He held a number of cabinet posts over the course of his career, including minister of natural resources, transport and labour.
An 'extraordinary' politician, colleague says
Treasury Board President Pierre Moreau first confirmed the news to reporters at the National Assembly Thursday morning.
"It's sad to see him go. He dedicated a big part of his life to public service, and we should thank him for that," Moreau said.
Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil called Hamad "extraordinary" and said he told her he was optimistic about "new challenges ahead of him."
"I got into politics in 2008, and he already had a lot of experience and competence then. He was a true leader, a man of action and team player. I have a lot of admiration for him," she said.
Monique Landry, who volunteered on all of Hamad's election campaigns since 2003, described him as "hardworking" and said politicians like him need a thick skin.
"You have to be tough," she said. "It's not easy because people are so critical."
"There's so much cynicism about politics, and so many people judge on appearances."