Although they all proclaim a sense of shame and regret, two of the principle witnesses moved to protect their assets by selling their homes to family members for one dollar, hardly an act of contrition.
At any rate, a tawdry picture of institutional corruption is revealed, so pervasive and encompassing that it is not hyperbole or exaggeration to describe it as mind-boggling.
Watching the HBO drama entitled Boardwalk Empire, the saga of crooked politicians running Atlantic City during prohibition, I can sadly conclude that our cast of villainous rogues at city hall could give poor Nucky, the chief villain of the show, a run for his money.
On Monday, Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay resigned, fatally wounded by allegations that he walked out of a room where corrupt practices were being discussed by fundraisers of his Union Montreal municipal party, telling the room as he departed that he didn't want to hear what was about to be discussed.
I honestly don't believe Tremblay took any money for himself, but by burying his head in the ground like the proverbial ostrich, he gave his tacit support to the illicit shenanigans.
In his resignation speech, a bitter Tremblay told the audience that he wasn't dishonest, but that the corruption in Montreal city hall is so entrenched and overwhelming that he wasn't in a position to do much about it. According to his story, he was a victim, not a crook....ahem.
Over a year ago, Jacques Duchesneau met with the mayor discreetly to warn him that four senior members of the mayor's entourage had been identified by his anti-corruption unit as bent. As of yesterday, when the mayor resigned, some of these people were still on the job.
I can sympathize with the mayor's impossible position where if he denounced his inner circle as corrupt, he may as well have tossed his political career in the garbage, the re-cycling bin not even an option because there's no recovering from that type of political hit.
And so the situation at Montreal City Hall can only be described as a kleptocracy, a government defined by its greed and corruption.
Even for a cynic like me, it is hard to understand how such unlawful activities could remain undiscovered and unreported for decades.
Where were the whistle-blowers, the investigative journalists and where were the politicians?
I would hope that there are actually some honest ones among the thieves.
It seems that Montreal was engulfed by the Perfect Storm of corruption, where all the components and elements; the construction contractors, the politicians, the city employees and the outside engineering firms, ALL conspired to defraud Montreal taxpayers of billions of dollars.
Imagine a hockey game where all the players on both teams, all the coaches, the referees, the team owners and the league all conspire to fix the outcome of a game.
Under these circumstance what chance do the fans have to watch an honest match.
For me, the fact that most of the engineering/consulting firms dealing with government are corrupt is particularly disheartening.
Just yesterday the anti-corruption unit UPAC raided four of these firms in Laval, including DESSAU, up to now, a proud fixture representing Quebec know-how. Link
That these large and supposedly professional companies, stocked with the best and the brightest minds are corrupt enterprises boggles the mind. We've already been rocked by allegations against SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec and international behemoth.
It's like finding out your health clinic, run by professionals and doctors was systematically defrauding patients by overcharging.
When will these revelations end?
Some in the Press are clamouring for harsh new rules and penalties, but it isn't the only answer.
Obviously an outside auditor can easily verify the integrity of a construction contract by comparing elements within. If the quoted price of say... concrete in Montreal, is double what is being paid in Quebec City (which was actually the case) it doesn't take a genius to cry foul. But in Montreal, as I said, even the auditor is corrupt.
But even diligent oversight is not enough when so many of the players are corrupt.
Here is a con that was described at the Charbonneau commission whereby a crooked city employee who was in charge of preparing the tender, falsified the requirements to favour his crooked construction company cohort..
Let us pretend that the actual project called for ten metric tons of concrete, the tender was written to include 18 tons of concrete and all the contractors based their submission including the cost of the fictitious extra concrete. The crooked contractor has been warned beforehand that he could complete the project using just the ten tons and so could easily underbid the others. Dastardly!
Corruption is a state of mind, and eliminating it means acting decisively and ruthlessly.
Half-measures, that include keeping the same dirty players (including the politicians) on the payroll are bound to fail.
|Half-measures are not enough.|
Montreal is set for a municipal election in a year and during the interim a government appointed administrator should be installed.
Every single elected politician should be dismissed and all construction projects not already underway, put on hold, including the gazillion dollar rebuild of the Turcotte Exchange.
During the next year, a thorough house-cleaning should be undertaken, where corrupt employees are to be dismissed, as well as those who knew of the corruption and did nothing about it. As witness after witness testified, every senior employee at city hall participated or tolerated rampant corruption.
Aside from the human element, the province can re-invent the city's political structure, dumping the bloated and counter-productive system of decentralization including the positions of borough mayors and councils, slashing the ridiculous number of elected officials in the process.
Yes, by all means we need to institute new regulations. We need to enforce these rules diligently and we need to step up all aspects of good and honest governance.
But nothing short of trusteeship will restore taxpayer faith and hopefully the year-long interlude in municipal rehab will allow political forces to re-organize. I seriously doubt that Union Montreal will survive, but that is a good thing.
Those politicians who are honest should welcome the opportunity to re-brand under a new leader.
Will any of this happen?
You know the answer as well as I, but at least we can dream.