The head of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Quebec responds to the allegations made about engineering firms at the Charbonneau Inquiry.
By Johanne Desrochers, AICQ
Michel Lalonde’s testimony before the Charbonneau Commission caused a veritable shockwave and consternation throughout the engineering sector, at the AICQ, in the business world, and within the general population. The stratagems and behaviours described in his testimony go against all the AICQ’s work of the last 40 years in promoting good business practices and measures aimed at promoting healthy competition.
It is not for us to judge all those concerned by Lalonde’s revelations. They will certainly have the right and the opportunity to present their version of the facts. This time will come, and in all fairness, we must wait.
However, the damage has been done. The purported questionable actions undoubtedly affected an entire industry in terms of its reputation, client relations, contracts, staff retention, succession planning, and the credibility of the independent professional status of consulting engineers.
At a personal level, these recent events have prompted me to take a step back, if only to avoid letting myself be invaded by only bad news. I am however convinced that if we want to weather this crisis, we must always stay in touch with the essence of Québec’s consulting engineering and its reputation for technical excellence and ability to innovate.
If certain business practices must now be eliminated, the engineering excellence that is the force of our industry must remain intact. And it will, thanks to the values of integrity shared by the great majority of the 23,000 employees that make up our industry and who are the spearhead of rebuilding its reputation. In these unpleasant times for our industry, we must avoid losing this perspective while continuing to promote these values more than ever.
In this situation, I have increased my meetings with our government partners and with our engineering and business clients. The feedback I have received is very clear: our partners remain confident in the AICQ and in the consulting engineering industry, although they do fully condemn the alleged actions.
Our industry’s practices must change so that in 5 or 10 years Québec can again be proud of its consulting engineers and consulting engineers can be proud of their profession. The consulting engineering industry is poised for a small revolution. . . .cce
Johanne Desrochers, B.A.A., CAE is president and chief executive officer of the Association des ingénieurs-conseils du Québec (AICQ)/Association of Consulting Engineers of Quebec, based in Montreal.
This article is a translation of an article she wrote in the February 2013 issue of the AICQ newsletter, InfoConseil. It is reproduced with permission.
Mme. Desrochers wrote the article about allegations made in January at the Charbonneau Commission of Inquiry being held in Montreal that is looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry. Consulting engineer Michel Lalonde of Génius Conseil (formerly Groupe Séguin) told the Inquiry that between 2004 and 2009 several large Quebec engineering companies had colluded on public infrastructure contracts and had arranged to pay the proceeds to various political parties.