Judge France Charbonneau is examining the role organized crime plays in public infrastructure projects and political party financing.
Credits: CHANTAL POIRIER
Listening to the public inquiry on corruption in the construction industry this week, you would seriously wonder if the comparison wasn't, in fact, an understatement. Over the last few days, we heard:
1) a contractor for the city of Montreal explaining that he got beaten up because he couldn't pay back the mob for illegal loans;
2) a so-called developer describing how to get false estimates of a piece of land that was worth $80 million and false estimates for decontaminating the land so the city ended up selling it for a rip-off price of $4 million;
3) the mayor's former adviser outlining the details about how he couldn't close the party's safe because there were too many 1000 and 100-dollar bills;
4) a story about the mayor's main bagman who couldn't stand up for a photo-op during a fundraiser since he had too many envelopes full of cash in his suit;
5) the receptionist at the mayor's party headquarters who complained because she had to count cash money, up to $850,000 in a single day;
6) an organizer of the same party who got over $10,000 cash in an envelope in a bathroom while answering nature's call; 7) someone who publicly questioned the cost of rebuilding a sidewalk was threaten to end up underneath concrete if he kept digging.
And for the first time, Martin Dumont, former adviser to Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay, admitted his boss was aware of the illegal funding and spending. In a byelection, the official agent of the party gave them a sheet of paper with two budgets for the election: the official one given to the director of the election and the unofficial but much more realistic in which a larger amount of expenses were paid for in cash.
According to Dumont the mayor's reaction was: "I don't have to see that." Tremblay has repeatedly said that he is innocent.
This freak show, also called a public inquiry, would make an unbelievable scenario for a wonderful Canadian movie. Unfortunately, there are consequences that prevent us from appreciating the suspense.
There is a price to such misbehaviour. This year alone, Montreal taxpayers will see their municipal tax bills increase by 3.4% while our economy is expected to grow by only 1.7%.
Over the past three years, our taxes went up by close to 17% while our GDP only increased by 9%. Corruption has a price and somebody ends up paying.
Montreal is declining, slowly but surely, partly because of our local "godfathers" in politics, in the bureaucracy, in the unions and in the construction industry.
The former great Canadian metropolis is today not even the shadow of what it used to be.
Welcome to today's local version of yesterday's Chicago or Palermo and the likes of Al Capone!