The comeuppance of Tony Accurso


This morning, Quebec’s anti-corruption squad Unité permanente anticorruption arrested businessman Tony Accurso, along with construction firm owner Normand Trudel and Richard Marcotte, mayor of the Montreal suburb of Mascouche (and former Liberal candidate). Charges are imminent. What follows is a look at Accurso’s influence in Quebec politics and construction industry. 

He was the guy who kept getting away.

More than any single individual, no man has better incarnated the decidedly shady connection between Quebec’s construction industry and its various levels of government than Tony Accurso. The construction magnate  and noted recluse would be an anachronism anywhere else in the country—an old-time throwback to when politicians fraternized with the men who build the roads and service the cities they oversee. Yet in Quebec, Accurso did just that with brazen regularity.  His yacht—appropriately named Touch—was moored in the Bahamas, and was the destination of choice for a variety of politicians and union types. Notably, Frank Zampino, then president of the city’s executive committee, twice lounged on Touch while the city was negotiating a $356 million water metre contract. You need only ask three questions to get an idea of the symbiotic relationship between the two—and the potential  consequence to the taxpayer.

Who ended up receiving the contract? A consortium including Accurso’s construction firm, Simard-Beaudry.

Why was the contract eventually annulled by the City of Montreal?  Because The contract, which was awarded without debate in 2007, was “Too fast, too big, too expensive”, in the words of an auditor’s report released in 2010.

And where did Zampino find work in the weeks after leaving politics following the water metre debacle? Dessau, which was the other half of the consortium that birthed the wildly inflated water metre contract.

But back to Accurso. In 2010, Louisbourg and Simard-Beaudry, two Accurso-owned construction companies, pleaded guilty to tax evasion to the tune of $8 million. Considering the weight and influence of these two companies—you can hardly drive past a road construction site in the Montreal area without seeing one of the two logos—this in itself would be incredible. But consider this delicious bit of hubris: Accurso’s companies had attempted to claim part of that $8 million as expenses associated with the building and upkeep of Touch. The funniest/saddest part of the equation, of course, is that Touch really was a business expense. Just ask Frank Zampino.

Accurso had tentacles everywhere in Montreal and the surrounding areas. A La Presse investigation last fall indicated that a quarter of all public works contracts in Laval between 2001 and 2008 were awarded to Accurso-owned firms. Accurso’s closeness to various Montreal politicians has been part of the huge controversy in the city’s construction industry in the past two years. “It is widely known that Mr. Accurso has direct access to the offices of Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt,” wrote La Presse’s Bruno Bisson and André Noël in the fall of 2009.

He also has tentacles elsewhere. Accurso’s current girlfriend is a Montreal-based senior manager at a large Canadian bank.

What does Accurso’s arrest mean politically? In politics, as in police work and prostitution, appearances are everything, and this is a mighty big coup for the Liberals. We’re going to see an election called in the coming months, and having Accurso nabbed by the anti-corruption squad his government created is the stuff of campaign gold for Jean Charest. There is a monstrous counterintuitive aspect to this, of course: the Charest’s Liberals have been plagued by corruption allegations throughout their time in government. Yet as Charest himself well knows, the electorate’s collective memory is blessedly short, and having Accurso’s head above the mantlepiece—as well as those of the student movement, which the Liberals are also in the process of stuffing—certainly doesn’t hurt for Charest’s fourth kick at the can.

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The comeuppance of Tony Accurso

  1. One quibble:  I am a big proponent of “Canadian” spelling so I wholeheartedly approve of metre for the measurment but in the case of your blog post you are referring to the thing that does the measuring which is a meter and not a metre.

    That is all.

    Actually, that’s not all.  Is Accurso’s head the only one that will be up on the mantle or, as the investigation widens, will others (like well-placed Conservative Senators etc.) be implicated?

    • You read Patriquin’s post and leave a comment about his spelling?

      xkcd ~ Duty Calls:
      Woman: Are you coming to bed?
      Man: I can’t. This is important.
      Woman: What?
      Man: Someone is wrong on the internet.

    • David Foster Wallace ~ 
      From one perspective, a certain irony attends the publication of any good new book on American usage. It is that the people who are going to be interested in such a book are also the people who are least going to need it, i.e., that offering counsel on the finer points of U.S. English is Preaching to the Choir. The relevant Choir here comprises that small percentage of American citizens who actually care about the current status of double modals and ergative verbs. 

      The same sorts of people who watched Story of English on PBS (twice) and read W. Safire’s column with their half-caff every Sunday. The sorts of people who feel that special blend of wincing despair and sneering superiority when they see EXPRESS LANE — 10 ITEMS OR LESS or hear dialogue used as a verb or realize that the founders of the Super 8 motel chain must surely have been ignorant of the meaning of suppurate. There are lots of epithets for people like this — Grammar Nazis, Usage Nerds, Syntax Snobs, the Language Police. The term I was raised with is SNOOT. The word might be slightly self-mocking, but those other terms are outright dysphemisms. A SNOOT can be defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it.

      I submit that we SNOOTs are just about the last remaining kind of truly elitist nerd. There are, granted, plenty of nerd-species in today’s America, and some of these are elitist within their own nerdy purview (e.g., the skinny, carbuncular, semi-autistic Computer Nerd moves instantly up on the totem pole of status when your screen freezes and now you need his help, and the bland condescension with which he performs the two occult keystrokes that unfreeze your screen is both elitist and situationally valid). 

      But the SNOOT’s purview is interhuman social life itself. You don’t, after all (despite withering cultural pressure), have to use a computer, but you can’t escape language: Language is everything and everywhere; it’s what lets us have anything to do with one another; it’s what separates us from the animals; Genesis 11:7-10 and so on. And we SNOOTS know when and how to hyphenate phrasal adjectives and to keep participles from dangling, and we know that we know, and we know how very few other Americans know this stuff or even care, and we judge them accordingly.

      • First of all Tony, I also asked about whether others beyond Mr. Accurso could be swept up in the investigation.

        Also, I believe a word should be devised to describe someone who can only offer a counter-point by quoting the works of others.

        Perhaps Tosser, or Ponce, or Dunderhead.  How about Sir Pretensiousness?

        You, TonyAdams, are the living example of, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

        And lastly:

        Wigan 2 – 1 Arsenal

        • Man U 82
          Man City 77 
          Arsenal 64 
          Spuds 59 
          Newc 59

      • At least F&W kept his short and to the point…

    • Would Mr. Accurso give police investigators more information about what Sen. Housakos and “the boss” did for him?  Unfortunately, I’m not sure they have the mandate or interest to investigate any federal influence-peddling or fraud, just municipal and provincial.

  2. A few decades back I usta visit a friend ( Maritimer ) in Hamilton who was involved in
    construction. I met some people like buddy. Fortunately, my friend moved back to the
    Maritimes so I didn’t have to go there again. 
    Construction in the Maritimes is pearly pure :).

    •  That’s sarcasm right?

  3. I bet Accurso’s  boat log tells an interesting story.

    • Every June and July – Bonhomme Carnaval (using his nomme de plume – “Puddles”)

      • Breaks the air conditioning every visit…

        • The kids use him to make snowcones when he falls asleep.

  4. Never mind Accurso we knew he was going to be nabbed eventually.  It’s the politicians that we need to get.  Will see the quality of their work  when they nab the biggest of them all, King Gilles Vaillancourt of Laval.Rest assured he’s not sleeping too well these days. If we nab him, I’d be ready to praise the work of the Quebec’s anti-corruption squad for now the rest is just chicken feed. 

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