It would now appear that Maclean's magazine got it wrong about Quebec being the most corrupt province in Canada.
If the evidence presented last week in the Montreal's Journal de Montreal and Radio Canada's 'Enquete' is true, it's likely that Quebec is the most corrupt state/province in North America!
In a blockbuster exposé, the newspaper and the investigative television show identified more disturbing acts of corruption across the length and breadth of the province, in municipality after municipality.
|Birds of a Feather- Mayors Robitaille & Marcotte|
So frightened was, Jean-Marc Robitaille, Mayor of Terrebonne and Mascouche mayor Richard Marcotte, that they didn't show up and announced that they were temporarily stepping down pending an investigation.
The allegations against Marcotte were pretty brutal including:
- a demand for a free house from a contractor
- Extorting a 5% commission on building projects for his party's political funds
- Buying condos from developers for under market value and then flipping them back to the same builder
About his relationship with Tony Accurso, the Montreal construction tycoon, at the center of several corruption scandals, the mayor was unequivocal. Asked if he ever vacationed aboard Mr. Accurso's infamous yacht, the mayor issued a forceful "NO COMMENT.'
The stink doesn't end in these two municipalities, another television exposé, this time targeting the city of Sagenauy over wasteful lawsuits and assorted conflicts, got it's feisty mayor Jean Tremblay in a lather. Defending himself and his city, he responded that it isn't up to Montrealers to make judgments about his administration, a priceless deflection!
The mayor, by the way, has a penchant for expensive lawsuits and to date has invested over seven million dollars of city money in dubious litigation, including defending the city practice of praying to Jesus before council meetings.
Disinterested Quebeckers choose over half its mayors and councillors by acclamation. Towns and cities across the province are run as private fiefdoms with the mayor and council running roughshod over the limited opposition that there is.
This leads to corruption, nepotism, favouritism, practices that are rampant with the few controls in place, easily ignored or sidestepped.
One example of the abuse is the widespread practice of breaking up large contracts into many 'mini' contracts to stay under the $25,000 threshold, at which tenders are required by law.
The city of Laval recently placed a huge contract into the hands of a PPP, controlled by a city official, which effectively removed the power of oversight from opposition councillors. The mayor of Lachute is now under the gun for giving out untendered contracts.
The list of transgressions goes on and on and on........
The investigative stories on television have exposed a level of corruption that would scare the Italian Guardia di finanzia, the corruption police that battles the Mafia.
It seems that in Quebec, to find corruption, one only has to look and not very hard at that.
The real problem remains with the lack of opposition to ruling cliques.
Don't think that this is a 'French' only problem, respect for democracy is equally missing in Anglo towns such as the tiny rich Anglo preserve of Hampstead, where mayor William Steinberg has taken to excluding the lone opposition member from city business by holding meetings in private. Shame!
Last year, Quebec City's mayor, Regis Lebaume ripped into the city of Montreal for its corruption that has, in his opinion, left a stain on all municipal administrations.
Now Lebaume dropped another bombshell, by withdrawing his city from l'Union des municipalités du Québec, an association of Quebec municipalities, over his assertion that the organization lacked ethical respectability.
This was directly related to his strenuous objection of the election of Saint-Jérôme mayor Marc Gascon as president of the organization.
Mired in ethical investigations over campaign financing and dubious municipal contracts, the Laurentian mayor brazened it out, with the support of the association's administrators, who elected him unanimously.
It was too much for Lebaume who declared that it would be impossible for the city of Quebec to allow a mayor under a cloud of suspicion, speak in its name. LINK
The Premier announced that he will allow the municipalities to decide on their own package of integrity reforms, a policy akin to letting the fox guard the hen house.
It's clear that the situation is out of control.
The province needs a universal set of rules and a powerful independent anti-corruption police force.
The anti-collusion agency created by the premier and headed by Jacques Duchesneau is woefully underfunded at two million dollars and is restricted to government contracts at the Ministry of Transport.
At any rate, rumour has it that Duchesneau is on the outs with the Premier over some sort of alleged skeleton in his closet, that has recently started to rattle rather loudly.
Many years ago an executive at a record store chain (now defunct) told me a funny story about a detective agency that approached him with an offer to test the integrity of the employees handling the cash register in his stores. He asked the agency how they would go about finding dishonest employees and they told him that they'd enter the store and offer to pay for their 'purchase' in cash, a much reduced price, which the cashier would pocket.
"That's it" he answered "Doesn't sound very impressive. Do you really think employees would cheat with a total stranger?"
At any rate he gave the detective agency a shot and low and behold the first day on the job, a detective called and said that one of the managers was caught in the sting.
Surprised the boss sent a supervisor to fire the employee and run the store temporarily. The next day the same thing happened again and the boss, already short with personnel, sent the regional supervisor to take over the store,
The third day, another store, another crook.
The exasperated boss told the agency to stop visiting his stores, he had no more personnel to take over!!
I guess if we want corruption in Quebec towns and cities to disappear, we need to order the newspapers and the television shows to stop investigating.
It seems like the the only way out......