Last night, Le Téléjournal led with a story about how, contrary to what Maclean’s wrote nearly two years ago, Ontario is actually the most corrupt province in the country. It was based largely on an interview conducted by Alain Gravel of Enquête, Rad-Can’s investigative show, with Ben Soave, a former RCMP chief superintendent.
“Two years ago, Maclean’s magazine affirmed that Quebec was the most corrupt province in Canada by talking about among other things the connections between the construction industry and organized crime. But, in a shock declaration, this former RCMP officer who oversaw the fight against the Mafia in Ontario until 2005 says that it’s just the opposite—that it’s Ontario that finds itself in a much worse situation.”
Here is the relevant exchange between Gravel and Soave:
Soave: They [Ontarians] have the same problem, the same corruption, they have the same organized crime groups operating here, devastating as they are in Quebec, but they’re much lower profile.
Gravel: They are quieter?
Soave: They’re quieter, much more so than in Quebec.
Gravel: So does it mean that they are less active, they are less infiltrated or what?
Soave: To the contrary, they’re probably more active than in Quebec.
First off, let’s start with Gravel’s source.
As Gravel notes, Soave hasn’t worked for the RCMP since 2005. What he doesn’t mention is that Soave now heads the Soave Group of Companies, which according to its website provides “unparalleled security- and risk-management consulting, investigative and forensic accounting services to clients in Canada and around the world.” In other words, Gravel relied on an interview with a former cop who hasn’t worked for the RCMP for seven years—and whose current business has at best a tangential connection to his former work—to rebuke what Gravel says Maclean’s wrote two years ago. And it’s the only source for Gravel’s piece.
But even if what Soave says is true, and it might very well be, it still doesn’t disprove anything Maclean’s published in its October 4, 2010 edition—which Gravel apparently misunderstood or didn’t read. Contrary to what Gravel said, our coverage didn’t say ties between the construction and organized crime were the reason behind Quebec’s peculiar and unique reputation as a respite for corruption. Rather, these ties are a symptom of a much larger problem: a corrupt political culture.
Speaking of yet another of these symptoms—the political meddling in the selection of judges in Quebec—I wrote, “This slew of dodgy business is only the most recent in a long line of made-in-Quebec corruption that has affected the province’s political culture at every level. [...] As politicians and experts from every facet of the political spectrum told Maclean’s, the history of corruption is sufficiently long and deep in Quebec that it has bred a culture of mistrust of the political class. It raises an uncomfortable question: why is it that politics in Canada’s bête noire province seem perpetually rife with scandal?”
We even wrote it on the cover, displayed at the top of Gravel’s story last night, in big letters:
See that? “Political scandals.” From Duplessis’s basement safe stuffed with cash for plying voters to the formidable and often violent union movement; from the Mulroney campaign getting vagrants to vote for him to Jean Chrétien’s Liberal Party’s Ad Scam, the siphoning off of “roughly $100 million from a fund effectively designed to stamp the Canadian flag on all things Québécois.” From veritable one-man dynasties (Duplessis) to a political spectrum that for over four decades has been dominated by a war between two camps, one federalist and one sovereignist, that entrenches practices and prevents change. These are just a few examples we wrote about. And for whatever reason, Gravel missed the argument entirely.