Collusion: Clean This Up Before Deciding On The Turcot

Jason Prince over at Turcot.ca calls for some serious investigating of corruption and collusion in the Quebec construction industry.

“Le Devoir and other papers have been reporting for months on how the construction business works in Quebec.

It is complex, with allegations ranging from mafia influence over municipal contracts all the way up to collusion between the highest levels of the Quebec government and a handful of massive engineering consulting firms (including Dessau, SNC Lavallin, and BPR).Some months back, Le Devoir reported on BPR’s “business model”. We remember that BPR scored the largest contract in Montreal’s history, to install water meters at a cost of 350$M, about twice what Toronto paid. The contract was eventually cancelled. BPR has made it their practice to immediately hire key people leaving government (either elected or “fonctionnaire”, especially from the municipal level), and then have these people act as the bridge to decision-makers on municipal contracts. Things start to look odd when muncipalities build water purification plants that are five times larger than needed. BPR (and its assorted subsidiaries) do all kinds of business: from water and waste management to public works. BPR is now being investigated for a possible violation of Quebec’s lobbyist law.

A Transport Canada study showed that the 2008 cost of constructing roads in Quebec was about 35% costlier than in the rest of Canada. Perhaps it is because of Montreal’s cold weather, the Minister of Transport suggested. Others suspect mafia influence and collusion.

When costs exploded on the Rue Notre Dame project, from 750 million to 1.5 billion, the Minister halted the project and blamed the fonctionnaires. The union responded a few days later with a clarification: evidently, only one fonctionnaire was responsible for the entire project, the rest of the work had been outsourced to engineer-consultants (Dessau, SNC, etc).

Does the Quebec government even have the capacity to evaluate major construction projects, when the private sector is that close to decision making?

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A National Assembly petition calls on the government to commision a public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry. Such an inquiry must look at collusion, if we are to escape from this hall of mirrors.

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