Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Turning over rocks: the things you find..
When I was a child, there was a patch of undeveloped swampy land behind our house, fed by a spring. There was tall grass, so high I remember it being over my head - fantastic place to hide! There were big grass snakes slithering around, hunting. And there was a shallow bog which held water all year round, except when it froze solid in winter. In the higher, drier spots of the bog there were discarded bits of lumber and some big rocks. When you turned these over you would find an amazing zoo of light shunning creatures: ant colonies, spiders, centipedes, earwigs, worms, woodlice.. I even saw my first slime mold ameba.. Sadistically, I would occasionally lure another kid to see one of my prized "collections" of creepy-crawlers. Sometimes I wouldn't have time to finish turning over a rotten board or a flat rock before I saw their backside cutting a wake through the tall grass to get the hell out there as fast as possible..
When governments lose contact with their true function: to provide services essential for the maintenance of a civlilized society, they become like that bog of stagnant water. Strange lifeforms which shun the light of day proliferate and take over. When the bog becomes too stagnant and stinks too much people finally decide to drain it and clean it up. Investigators, whistle blowers and muck-raking journalists turn over rocks and expose what has been hidden to the light of day. This is what transparency looks like in action..
Québec province's Charbonneau Commission into organized crime influence in the construction industry has claimed its first victims.
Montréal mayor Gérald Temblay decided to step down as the heat went up and accusations of corrupt practices in the metropole's city hall came to light. As Don Macpherson noted in a recent column, the Charbonneau Commission also has a mandate to investigate corrupt political linkages between the construction industry and the financing of political parties, both municipal and provincial. These links may prove the greatest embarrassment of all. Mayor Temblay denied any knowlege of inflated contract prices and an organized system of kickbacks to collaborating city officials in Montréal. But resign he did and not without signficant political fallout. The Mayor's ruling municipal party found itself so weakened and morally compromised that it was forced to cancel tax hikes that been announced a mere two days earlier. The municipal tax hike was pared back from 3.3% to 2.2%, reflecting the annual inflation rate. It was simply too embarrassing to demand super-inflationary tax hikes while city hall is under suspicion of accepting bribes from mafia-ridden construction companies to inflate city contracts. Contracts may have been, in some cases, inflated as much as 30 to 40% over their real value. Corrupted city officials are alleged to have received skim-offs of 2 to 3% of the final contract value to let the inflated estimates pass without question.
There has already been blow back from the Charbonneau Commission at the provincial level. Ex-premier Jean Charest (Libéral) was, more or less, forced to call an early, summer election rather than face the storm of corruption charges that the Commission would unleash. He lost that election..
Nor were Mayor Tremblay and Premier Charest the only early victims. The city of Laval's "king", Gilles Vaillancourt, was forced to fall on his sword after a 23 year reign. The heads have only started to roll, one suspects..
Investigators are looking into allegations that Mayor Vaillancourt funneled millions of dollars of dirty money into overseas tax havens. In addition, two provincial officials have stepped forward claiming that he offered them illegal political contributions.
A smorgasbord of articles on the Charbonneau Commission by Macleans Magazine:
internal blog link: http://transparencycanada.blogspot.ca/2012/11/the-right-hand-knows-not-what-left-hand.html