Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Quebec, The Fix Is Always In

If we can learn anything from the recent awarding of the untendered Montreal metro car contract, it's that when push comes to shove, in Quebec, the fix is always in. LINK

Historically, this dirty business of fixing contracts, has almost always been conducted behind closed doors, beyond public scrutiny and media purview. But backed into a corner by the courts and a clearly superior foreign bid, the Liberal government decided to brazen it out, the prize just too big to give away to outsiders.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the shameful betrayal of fair and free trade is the fact that the government knew it could count on the opposition to support its 'Quebec 1st' policy because in the end, Quebec politicians of every stripe believe in the same thing, which is fair trade when Quebec is advantaged and protectionism when it is not.
Even the conservative Action democratique and the ultra left wing Quebec solidaire parties voted with the Parti Quebecois and the government to unanimously pass a law that bypassed the tender process to reward another Quebec company, Bombardier, with an uncompetitive contract.

In fact, the very best excuse for voting for the bill came from our good friend Amir Khadir, who actually praised Bombardier,(usually a foil for separatists and leftists) as good corporate citizen who "respects our laws, the environment, pays its taxes and respects our language."

Karl Marx must be spinning in his grave.

"Quebec solidaire agrees with the protection of quality jobs in Quebec's regions,"  
Mr. Khadr is right about one thing, if there's anything that Quebeckers know a thing or two about, it's protection and price-fixing.
These dirty practices predate the sovereignist movement and the rise of big government, so the Maclean's article which cited those reasons for the extreme level of corruption in Quebec is clearly wrong. 
Perhaps that was the major flaw of the piece, coming to unsupportable and faulty conclusions. 
It left Quebec apologists an easy out, they quickly pounced on the author's mistake in over-reaching and allowed them to once more pull out the old chestnut of 'Quebec-bashing.'

Yes, even before separatists and big government existed, corruption was part and parcel of the Quebec landscape. Back in the day, the partisan nature of government contracts was so pervasive that it reached down to the lowly contracts for snow removal on public highways where political loyalties were the over-riding consideration. Contractors were designated either 'red' or 'blue' and winning a contract was more dependent on the government of the day, than the price of the bid.

The powerful agricultural lobby has always worked with compliant politicians to artificially raise prices  by creating 'floor' prices for such staples as butter and milk. Until a couple of years ago the industry kept margarine from being coloured yellow, ostensibly to avoid confusion between it and the real McCoy, butter. So fierce was this protection that the government actually raided a Wal-Mart that dared sell yellow margarine imported from another province.

To this day, in Montreal, you can hardly visit a new car dealer on the week-end, as the industry colludes to keep their doors closed and keep weekends free for employees. Dealers who have opposed this prohibition, have suffered assorted 'bad luck," like rocks being thrown through their showroom windows, in a not so subtle reminder not to buck the 'collective' decision.
Recently, a group of gas stations in the Easter Townships was charged with colluding to fix the price of gasoline at their pumps. Consumers are now in the process of a class action suit to recover the ill-gotten profits. Link

Perhaps the most egregious abuse is that which takes place in the civil service where contracts subject  to the tender process are also said to be rigged. A software developer recently confided that he was asked to make an uncompetitive bid so that the favoured vendor would win the bidding process. "Don't worry" he was promised, "Your turn will come."

In Montreal, this process is legendary in relation to the bidding on public works contracts.
It is alleged that a group of thirteen construction companies divvy up the pie and outsiders are 'convinced' that biding is not in their own interest.  ahem....
The recent media attention directed at these so-called fixed contracts has had a surprising benefit. A city official has told the media that tender prices for municipal contract has plummeted by 30% since the publicity!
There are voices being raised, a Trois-Rivières company has lodged a complaint against the city of Drummondville with the Quebec municipal affairs department, claiming that its bid for a contact, some $200,000 cheaper than the winner, was subject to bid manipulation. Link

So nothing has really changed over time, except for the scale of the frauds that have matched the growth of government.

In response to the Maclean's article, we were promised by many editorial writers that Quebeckers were ready to shake off the embarrassing history of corruption and as proof offered up the fact that Quebeckers are now demanding that the province open a public inquiry into the construction industry, the province's most corrupt sector.

But the metro car scandal is sad confirmation that this supposed fresh wind of honesty, blowing across the province, is illusory.

Nothing has really changed and the truth remains that Quebeckers are still firmly attached to the concept of cheating.

The real scandal of the metro car fiasco is not that the government pulled a 'fast one.' It's that it did it with the opposition's help and public compliance.

Without the public's acceptance, it would be impossible to continue the corrupt practices that pervade all levels of government and the civil service. This fact is profoundly sad.

While talking a good game, Quebeckers have only themselves to blame. By not rising up in abject rage against the abusive metro contract, the public has sent a signal, that is business as usual.

And so, once again, the benefits winning jobs at the expense of fair trade are too attractive. The attitude isn't much different from a parent who tolerates a teenager's shoplifting, as long as they bring home something of value.

As for corruption in the Province of Quebec, it seems that 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.'


  1. It's only the membership in Canada that prevents Quebec from becoming a banana republic. After 20 years as an independant country, without transfer payments from the ROC and the other benefits from being part of Canada, I'm betting Quebec would more closely resemble Haiti than it would France.

  2. That's what's really scary about this place. No opposition to theft, and corruption.

    It reminds me of Ray Bradbury's great sci-fi novel "Fahrenheit 451". A society that seems to have abdicated it's rights, and accepted a suppressive form of governance in their daily lives. Hey it's normal!

  3. Quebec is just a nasty and corrupt place. It is kind of like a little piece of Latin America that somehow found its way north. As I've said since the 1970's Canada would be better off without it. The Toronto guy.

  4. Mississauga Guy said...


    Perhaps I'm assuming the role of a consequentialist because I believe what MacLean's wrote was positive. It sufficiently embarrassed Quebecers to react, but it took what you perceive to be a Machiavellian means to do obtain this reaction and you don't like it. TOUGH! Quebec deserves to be admonished, berated and ridiculed for its behaviour.

    You just achieved the same result as MacLean's, but in another way. Duplessis was a blatant practitioner of pork barrel politics.

    I grew up in Chomedey, Laval. In the late 1960s, some yahoo named Jacques Tétrault was elected mayor of Laval, but not by the people of Chomedey West where NOBODY voted for him. You can only imagine how few times "Titro" (as I used to refer to him) directed the snow removal equipment into our neighbourhoods during his ONE mandate as our mayor.

    Quebec is the master of cover-ups. René Lévesque one night in February 1977 killed a pedestrian in his drunken state and didn't wear his glasses as his driver's license required him to. He never even went to court for killing an innocent pedestrian.

    Pierre Laporte was murdered and if I remember correctly, Paul Rose was convicted for his murder, amonst others including his brother Jacques even though he was an after-the-fact accomplice. There was a murder by custodians of the kidnapped victim, yet not one life sentence was passed among the small thugocracy that was behind it.

    Quebecers seem to have a way of revering outlaws, and cover-ups are too easy to do. At least MacLean's put Quebec on the spot, where it belonged the most.

    In the case of the Metro cars, where is GATT on this (The General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade)? This international organization should be loudly crying foul.

  5. After reading charest's comment about big government is our safeguard against the anglo saxon world, it just confirms that nationalists and big government is the new clergy oppressing french canadians and we accept it, simply incredible as a mindset.

  6. The saddest part of all this is that you can't vote for anyone else in this province and if you're last name isn't French you can't even dream of being anything but a poster boy in an ethnic community, there just to collect (otherwise lost) votes...

    Quebec is as frustrating as it is depressing!

  7. Nous construisons les meilleures machines au monde,pourquoi s'en priver ?

    Nous les alimentons avec notre propre énergie (a prix dérisoire,qui dit mieux?) issue elle aussi de notre travail.Une des infrastructures hydro-électrique les plus puissante et performante au monde.Notre but:Alimenter la côte Est au complet.

    Le plus beau dans tout ça c'est que nous réalisons le tout en Français,c'est ti pas beau ça?Je comprend votre jalousie.Notre pays,on l'a déja!

  8. I await the day when another country hands a contract to a local company and tells Bombardier to f*** off. The precedence is set.

  9. "plus ca change, plus c'est parreil"

  10. "Cela fait plus de 5 ans que j'ai quitté le Sweat-shop de l'Amérique du Nord et c'est bien comme cela! N'importe ou ailleurs dans le monde est mieux que le Québec."


  11. "J'ai quitte le Quebec en 2008 pour m'installer avec ma petite famille a Vancouver, CB. Ca a tres bien ete. Je me sens chez moi ici. Les gens sont acceuillant et chalereux. Pas de gaspillage d'argent, pas de commissions a ne plus en finir, pas de "politiques d'integration" raciste...

    Ici, en Colombie-Britanique, je me sens canadien, et je suis fier de l'etre. Lucien Bouchard a raison de critiquer la politique et le peuple Quebecois. Il faut qu'il se reveille avant qu'il ne soit trop tard et de finir comme la Grece. "


  12. Quebec, is in fact, their own worst enemy. Welfare state, bigotry, corrupt politicians, mafiaso, etc etc etc. All the time they try and defend their position when in fact, there really is no defence. If what you see is the Quebecois culture then I am happy not too be part of it. Damn the infantile politicians in Ottawa for having no balls to stand up to this bastion of corruption and deceit.

  13. @adski

    Effectivement ces personnes peuvent aller vivre ou ils désirent.Comme des milliers viennent s'installer ici.Je ne comprend pas ces liens vers des personnes qui ont décidé de voir du pays.Vous adski,sans indiscrétion, pourquoi demeurez-vous dans un pays ou vous semblez malheureux?

  14. @Anonymous 9:31AM

    You ask a valid question, which I couldn't answer without divulging some personal information. Which I won't do on-line, obviously. Suffice it to say, my family obligations keep me here for the time being. Otherwise, I would be here no longer.

  15. "...N'importe ou ailleurs dans le monde est mieux que le Québec."

    N'est-ce pas légèrement excessif comme affirmation?L'auteur de cette phrase aurait-il visité tous les pays?Ce genre de comportement ressemble a de la rancune et a de la haine plutôt qu'a une critique sociale.

    Les Québécois ont une mentalité et des préocupations beaucoup plus près du socialisme (Entre-aide et soucis du prochain) que les anglos ou l'individualisme et la réussite personnelle prime sur plusieurs valeurs humaines.