2011/10/20

Québec: The most corrupt province

A year ago, Maclean's cover story claimed Québec to be the most corrupt province. A supporting article to this cover story pointed to the province's nationalist penchant as the reason for it.

In reaction, Jean-François Lisée wrote an articulate piece challenging the magazine's journalistic integrity:"I did try to find in last week's issue the methodology used to grant Quebec its number one spot on the corruption scale. I was curious to know who was number two, and how wide the margin was—as in Maclean's yearly university rankings. Did the writers use the number of corruption convictions of elected officials in each province since 2000? The cash amount proven to have changed hands illegally? Or, since no conviction is to be found in Quebec (yet?), the number of police inquiries in play? I was disappointed. Maclean's has no comparison metrics whatsoever. The whole cover is based on opinion and perception alone. Hopes for a Pulitzer on this one are dim.

I have a great idea for a Maclean's cover. Picture a Bonhomme Carnaval with a halo. No, better yet, a crowd of such Bonhommes as far as the eye can see. The title:
Quebecers: Canada's resilient corruption-busters.

The story would go like this. Eliot Ness-type figures battling corruption are a staple of Quebec culture. It seems to be in the national Quebec genome to rise up against graft and sleaze. Not that they haven't been duped. In the forties, they loved Maurice Duplessis because he denounced and ridiculed the corruption of the preceding Liberal government. But he then became as a great corrupter himself. In the 1950s, they turned to the incorruptible inspector Pax Plante and crusader Jean Drapeau, who cleaned-up Montreal's Mob and brothels with a vengeance. Drapeau became a hero, then an autocratic, visionary, and at times inept—but never corrupt—mayor. In the 1960s, the new white knight was René Lévesque, who championed procurement reform in a Liberal "équipe du tonnerre" that equipped Quebec for the modern world. The decade nearly was scandal-free. In the early 1970s collusion between a mob-related union, the FTQ-Construction, and the Quebec Liberal government saw the rise of new corruption-busters in a commission that was followed more closely than hockey night. Brian Mulroney and Lucien Bouchard's careers take their roots in this largely successful cleansing effort."
This week, under relentless pressure from the population, Premier Jean Charest appointed a commission of inquiry into collusion and fraud into the construction industry. An inquiry that will take place outside the usual legislative framework. An inquiry in which commissioners will not be able to subpoena witnesses and force them to testify or order the search and seizure of evidence. An inquiry in which witnesses will appear voluntarily without receiving immunity, thus exposing evidence that may be used against them in future criminal cases. An inquiry in which commissioners themselves are not protected against future lawsuits.

But the population isn't duped. A poll by Léger Marketing [Google translation] conducted in the days that followed the announcement reveals that 68% of the Québécois are not satisfied with the proposed format. An overwhelming majority of respondents (86%) are dissatisfied that witnesses cannot be subpoenaed.

Note the situation. Popular support to expose corruption through a public inquiry is roughly at 80%, but the staunchest federalist Premier the province ever had behaves as if he doesn't want one. Shouldn't Maclean's write a follow-up story on its conclusions?

1 comment:

patricia said...

Thank you for a problem depicting article. Local corruption in Quebec is a public danger and it is nothing less than terribly sad, moreover when the country´s numbers in corruption are decreasing, making Canada one of the
highest ranked business countries in the world.