The most damaging testimony yet against consulting engineering companies in Quebec emerged at the Charbonneau Inquiry in Montreal last week. The commission is investigating corruption in the province’s construction industry.
According to media reports, Michel Lalonde, president of Génius Conseil (formerly Groupe Séguin) told the inquiry on Thursday, January 23 that between 2004 and 2009 he had been the “spokesperson” and coordinator for a group of engineering firms who colluded to allow a cut of the monies from contracts to be contributed to the local political party Union Montreal. He said that engineering companies were expected to donate 3% of any contracts they received to the party.
Lalonde said his own firm was involved in these transactions and was once asked to pay $100,000 to Union Montreal. He delivered the money in cash in installments, passing it to the party fundraisers to the party’s head office on Saint-Jacques Street.
A CBC article of January 23 said that Lalonde, who apparently delivered his testimony calmly, even smiling sometimes, noted that Lalonde “insisted the cash his firm collected through this process was never pocketed, but always turned over to municipal political parties….”
In an article written by Michelle Lalonde in the Montreal Gazette on January 25, André Rainville, executive director of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ), representing professional engineers in Quebec, said he was “shocked” by Lalonde’s testimony. “The majority of engineers exercise their profession with honesty, integrity and ethics,” said Rainville. “It is still an honourable profession and if certain people have sullied its reputation, we want to do everything we can to correct that.”
He said that the number of complaints being made to the OIQ have escalated from around 80 to 90 a year to 400 to 500 a year since 2009, when allegations about corruption in the construction industry first came to a head and a police anti-corruption squad known as “Operation Hammer” had been formed.