Quebec’s corruption problem

While the values charter has dominated debates outside Quebec, corruption has riled those within


Ryan Remiorz/CP

If you are a Quebecer and you’ve heard of the so-called “charter of Quebec values”—and chances are, you have—then it’s mission accomplished for the Parti Québécois. The sovereignist party has promoted its proposed legislation, which would ban the wearing of “conspicuous” religious symbols by public sector workers, by way of strategic media leaks and a nearly $2-million ad campaign. The PQ has made no secret of its desire to use the charter as its warhorse in the next election, which may come as soon as this spring.

Yet for all its hype, the charter legislation has only entrenched Quebecers into “for” and “against” camps in roughly equal numbers, according to successive polls. What’s more, despite how every Quebecer seems to have an opinion on whether government workers should be able to wear religious garb, few consider the matter as important as the PQ might like. A Léger poll last fall suggested only seven per cent of Quebecers thought such a charter should be a government priority.

Quebecers, it seems, are far more interested in fighting corruption within government. Quebec’s other obsession, which has taken a backseat to the charter’s sound and fury, remains a top priority in the province, after governmental spending and tax reductions, according to the same poll. In fact, the four-year inquiry into corruption within the province’s construction industry will have far more impact on who forms the next government than what religious accoutrement a government worker may or may not wear.

It’s a wonder the PQ hasn’t yet exploited the corruption angle. If the past is any prologue, the Charbonneau commission, as the inquiry is known, will be more of a political liability for the opposition Liberals in the coming year.

Since its inception in October 2011, the Charbonneau commission has investigated corruption of all sorts, uncovering long-running, widespread price-fixing schemes among construction companies bidding on municipal governments in and around Montreal. It established the existence of a similarly long-running pattern of illegal donations to the province’s major political parties from some of its biggest engineering firms. And it shed light on the perturbing relationship between the FTQ, the province’s biggest union federation, and alleged members of organized crime.

While the Parti Québécois hasn’t exactly escaped unscarred—the party has long-standing ties with the FTQ, and was found to have solicited illegal donations by the province’s electoral authority—Quebec’s Liberal party has fared much worse. Two former Liberal cabinet ministers, Michelle Courchesne and Nathalie Normandeau, have been named during the hearings, both for Liberal fundraising activities.

Coincidentally or not, the lion’s share of illegal donations has been found to have gone to the Liberals. UPAC, the province’s anti-corruption police task force, has conducted raids on the Liberal headquarters and several construction companies of former Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau. “There are individuals who commit bad acts in every party,” says Quebec Liberal party spokesperson Gabrielle Collu. “We hope light is shined on all corruption, and that people who are guilty answer for their actions. Our members are sick of being associated with corruption.”

The Liberals’ brave face aside, there are certain parallels between the party today and its 1970s incarnation, according to former crime journalist, PQ politician and current political analyst, Jean-Pierre Charbonneau (no relation). In 1972, Liberal premier Robert Bourassa called a commission into organized crime after a police anti-corruption squad found links between Montreal’s police chief and the Cotroni crime family.

The subsequent inquiry, known as CECO, uncovered further links between the Cotroni family and Pierre Laporte, Bourassa’s former labour minister. CECO, Charbonneau says, “hurt Bourassa. It got worse and worse and ended with him losing the election in 1976.” That year, the PQ campaigned more on cleaning up corruption than on the thorny issue of sovereignty. It won by a crushing majority.

The Charbonneau commission resumes in January, and will focus on Quebec’s transportation ministry and political fundraising—two particularly sensitive areas for the Liberals, given the party’s ties to construction companies and its documented ability to harvest illegal donations. The PQ, meanwhile, seems nonplussed. “I don’t have much worry about what is going to come out during Charbonneau,” PQ director-general Sylvain Tanguay says. In fact, the governing party may be looking forward to it.


Quebec’s corruption problem

  1. Liberals + Italian “businessmen” = Quebec Corruption.
    If I was an average Italian in Quebec, I’d warn my kids never to associate with a Liberal.
    That applies to both the Provincial and Federal Variety. Both cut from the same cloth when it comes to the entitlement gene.
    However, as long as Quebecers keep voting for these creeps…the problems will remain.

    • Liberals == corruption.

      I don’t think Chretien with ad-scam was Italian or Sicilian. Chretien Liberals set that one up all by themselves and still owe us money.

      • Problem is, you couldn’t go a day during the Adscam inquiry without hearing about, or from, someone whose last name sounded like it came right out of the list of characters in a Martin Scorsese film. If ya couldn’t figure it out from that….

  2. Liberals + Italians = quebec Corruption.

    If I was an average Italian in Quebec, I’d warn my kids never to associate with a Liberal.

    That applies to both the Provincial and Federal Variety. Both cut from the same cloth when it comes to the entitlement gene.

    As long as Quebecers keep voting for these people, the problems will remain. Quebec needs to open their borders to outside Construction firms from other provinces.

    • “… Quebec needs to open their borders to outside Construction firms from other provinces….”
      My friend, you “hit the nail on their head”, ’cause that is EXACTLY what the problem is, in the context you’re suggesting, with Quebec.
      There is NO doubt about that now.

  3. “charter of Quebec values” includes the right to be corrupt and never see a jail cells.

    When it comes to all this corruption, I even add in federal and SNC, ad-scam, Airbus….and a long list of bribe takers selling out Canadians…..

    Not one person in jail, tonight. RCMP never did get their man Rizzuto, FBI did!

    This country is corrupt to the core. Its part of why we are taxed like slaves, the back room deals, inflated contracts, the bailout corruption for buddies and favors.

    We are economic slaves of corrupt state. It can be fixed, but we will not. As the real problem is two fold and easy fix if we had ethical leadership.

    1) Cut government bloat and spending by at least 50%. They have too much of our money to waste attracting the wrong people.

    2) For governemtn to be 100% open and full disclosure of ALL economic transactions it does – NO exceptions.

    But we will not, as our governments are crooked and want to hide it while asking for more of your money.

    • Dave,
      The problem with corruption in the Liberal party, is that of excess success. Folks who are looking to get into power to enrich themselves, tend to want to join parties’ that are the most successful. Over the years in Canada, that party is the Liberal party. They have been the most successful….hence, they tend to attract those who are the most corrupt, or corruptable. Simply annointing a leader like Justin Trudeau is useless, as the folks who have made the liberal Party rotten…are still there. They’re just pulling the strings on a more attractive puppet, but don’t be fooled, once installed, Trudeau will still be controlled by his handlers.
      The media attempt to make harper look corrupt is just pathetic. After 8 months of continous coverage of duffy-gate, the CBC actually had a banner on their program asking, “Duffy affair – Worse than sponsorship?”
      Simply ridiculous. The CBC doesn’t even pretend to be neutral any longer.
      Now that polls show Trudeau is more popular than Harper….you can be sure our “connected friends” in the construction industry will once again be leaning towards the Liberal party.

  4. I dunno. We *already* knew about Liberal-associated corruption in 2011. At the time the major pundits (mainstream and otherwise) were berating anyone who leaned toward voting Liberal as voting for the corrupt status quo.

    In any other province the PQ would have been able to present themselves as the squeaky-clean alternative and cakewalked to victory. But they’ve got so much baggage, and a raison d’etre that has been rejected by the majority of Quebecers, that it’s just not going to happen.

    The Liberals have moved on to a new leader, and odds are that anyone new names named at Charbonneau this spring (Club 357c anyone?) won’t matter anymore.

  5. Not one person in jail says it all. Corrupt to the core.

    • And where were Trudeau Senior and Trudeau Junior in all of this Quebec corruption?

      Is someone going to try and tell me they didn’t know it was going on.

      They turned a blind eye because it was one more way to funnel money from the rest of Canada into Quebec and that was always okay with the Trudeau gang. Had Trudeau been honest he would have and should have done something about it. But he did not and therefore must wear the mantle of corruption.

      Let us not forget Lyin Brian Mulroney who conveniently forgot Hundreds of thousands of dollars in brown envelopes until he knew the game was up then came forward to Revenue Canada and cut a deal to stay out of jail.
      Quebec generally = Crooked.

      Politicians with Quebec links are almost always corrupt. From any party.

      Then the Liberal or should I say (Lie-beral) party of Canada puts up Trudeau Junior as candidate for Prime Minister. He has been as tolerant of Quebec corruption as his father was. Shame on the Liberal Party for supporting the corruption go along gang.

      Every wonder “what was the Trudeau reward for silence” and certainly “no concrete action” on corruption?

      This comes to light under Harper – what a coincidence. Nobody at the top to hide it any more.

  6. No one in jail tonight even though this corruption ahs been going on sol long not many even know when it started.

    Reality is this is all hot air and gas from a governemtn that itself is corrupt to the core. Lend the appearances that they care about justice while robbing the people blind.

    There i no intent to curtail corruption. Just they want you to believe it.

    No one in jail tonight and no corrupt wealth confiscation for reparations says it all. RCMP couldn’t bring Rizzuto down as he would have dragged too many other corrupt politicians, police, judges, prosecutors and well connected civil servants with him.

    Like I say, no one is in jail tonight says it all. All repetitive talk and nothing tangible done, the Candian and Quebec governemtn way.

  7. So tired of the constant slander against liberals from uniformed rightards.

    The liberals gave us balanced budgets. In his brief reign, Harper has racked up 30% of our national debt. He is a disaster for our economy.

    • What part of the Construction industry of Quebec are you a part of Everybody?
      By the way….we didn’t tarnish the liberals, or make them corrupt…..they did that willingly themselves.

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