Charbonneau says impact of Inquiry on Quebec has been profound
After three years the Commission of Inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry has ended its hearings. On Friday, November 14 Justice France Charbonneau thanked her fellow commissioner Renaud Lachance and gave her...
After three years the Commission of Inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry has ended its hearings. On Friday, November 14 Justice France Charbonneau thanked her fellow commissioner Renaud Lachance and gave her concluding remarks. The commissioners will now retire to consider the facts and write their report, which is due next April. With 66,000 pages of transcript, and 2,800 documents in hand, they will have their work cut out for them.
The 261 days of hearings at the Inquiry were broadcast on television, reportedly drawing a large audience who were riveted by the colourful and sometimes dramatic witness testimonies. The evidence pointed to widespread collusion between contractors in the awarding of public projects, illegal political donations to win work, and the infiltration of the construction industry by organized crime. There were stories of wads of cash being passed from hand to hand, so many bills stuffed into one safe that it couldn’t be closed, persuasive yacht trips and trips to the Caribbean, hockey tickets, and meetings in expensive restaurants. While most of the evidence involved municipal politicians and large construction company owners, engineering firms and engineers were also implicated.
In her concluding remarks Justice Charbonneau noted that the commission’s role was not to assign criminal liability to anyone, since “This task falls to the courts.”
She said their mandate is now to establish measures that will help prevent corruption occurring in the industry in future.
On this score the commissioners have heard advice from professional associations, trade unions, and corporations, as well as from expert international witnesses. The issues include how to promote competition while encouraging local businesses, how to identify vulnerabilities in systems that encourage collusion and corruption, and the importance of maintaining ethics in public and private institutions. Charbonneau also cited the importance of whistleblowers and how they must be protected, and she saluted investigative journalists and said they are important watchdogs and must be able to perform their work free of obstruction.
She also noted that even though the corruption allegations had affected the image of the construction industry as a whole, it does not mean that all companies and individuals working in that sector are dishonest.
The impact of the findings on Quebec society has been profound, she said, but noted that in taking on this enormous task on to expose corruption and pursue integrity Quebecers are being held as an international example and that they can hold their heads high.
Public confidence in Quebec’s institutions must be restored, she added, and noted that corruption and collusion is a global phenomenon and is reflected in all spheres of society.
The official name of the inquiry is the Commission of Inquiry into the Tendering and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry.
To read Justice Charbonneau’s full comments in French, click here.