WHEN THE QUEBEC NATIONAL Assembly resumes sitting in February, Bill 87 will be on its menu.
This bill is the first measure proposed by the government of Premier Philippe Couillard in response to the Charbonneau Commission’s investigation into corruption. The bill follows the commission’s recommendation for a law to protect whistleblowers – but only for public-sector employees.
As a result, contractor Lino Zambito and union official Ken Pereira, praised by commission head Justice France Charbonneau for their revelations, would not be protected by Bill 87.
So, will the Couillard government comply with the Charbonneau Commission’s other recommendations? The editorial cartoons published after Charbonneau delivered her 1,741-page report suggest not.
Aislin, in The Gazette, depicted Couillard calling for tenders to build “a massive shelf” as he stood under the massive report.
Chapleau, in La Presse, had Charbonneau and co-commissioner Renaud Lachance with black eyes, with Charbonneau explaining: “We had a slight difference.”
The commission’s mandate was to look into allegations that corruption was boosting the cost of public-sector construction projects in Quebec by as much as 30%. Charbonneau stated she believes there was a link between contributions to political parties and the awarding of public construction contracts: “This inquiry confirmed that there is a real problem in Quebec and it is more extensive and deeply rooted than we could imagine.”
But Lachance wrote that the commission did not have a mandate to probe links between party funding and provincial government construction contracts.
Former premier Jean Charest appointed Charbonneau, a Superior Court judge, and Lachance, who was Quebec’s auditor general, in October 2011. A third commissioner, McGill law professor Roderick Macdonald, died and was not replaced.
The report did establish links between contractors and municipal parties, with testimony that former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montréal party received 3% kickbacks from contractors.
At the provincial level, however, the commission found it was “impossible to conclude there exists a direct and specific link between political donations and a particular contract.”
But taken together, testimony during the 263 days of hearings “supports the conclusion there was an indirect link between certain contributions and the award of contracts and subsidies,” the report states.
Charbonneau noted the commission was created to show that Quebec is ready “to do what is necessary to protect our values of integrity and the public interest.”
In 2015, the Charbonneau Commission found that engineering, construction and law firms flouted Quebec’s anti-corruption law by having their employees give up to the maximum $3,000 donation to political parties. The firms then illegally reimbursed that money – and won public contracts.
Bill 87 seems to be a timid response.
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