Corruption costs us all, big
Wewill never know what the Pat Burns Arena, a glorified prefab building after all, would have cost if it had gone to bid this year. Seems that between a quarter to a third less is the norm in a lot of government contracts this year. With the commission of enquiry on the construction industry, headed by Madame Justice France Charbonneau, who this week is giving us the teaser of what the iceberg is all about, we can easily imagine that when the heat of summer will have done its work, prices may go even lower.
Now, we have no idea what to do with a couple of million or so, what maybe the arena project would have cost less if… Maybe we would have had a handicapped accessible facility, the parking lot would have been paved… Paving is something else as the commission learned this week; there again it looks like the game is fixed! Now this town and all others have done a lot of paving over the last couple of years. Well, we also have no idea what to do with that couple of million that would still be in our pockets.
Mind you, most of the money spent on paving and infrastructure work is only paid to a third by our municipalities. Imagine the impact on our municipal tax bill if we had paid the full amount. Then, we do not pay income taxes… Do we?
All in all, it must have been a couple of billion a year. Then again, if we have no idea what to do with a couple of million, what are billions for?
The long term effect of all of this will cost Quebec a lot more than the couple of billions diverted already. Let’s give a simple example that will bring our intention to some locals who are investing heavily here. A couple of years ago one made what has been found in the end, with another commission of enquiry from that country, to be an honest mistake that could have appeared to have been an attempt at corruption. We are not talking fly by night operation here, but a major player in their field, one, by the way, in which the Quebec and Canadian pension funds have just pumped one hundred million dollars into, each. Like it or not, there is always a large segment of public opinion that will prefer to believe a rumour, as unfounded as it is shown to be, rather than the truth. Now let’s say that the main Quebec player in that field must admit that somehow it has been paying some foreign countries to accept their contracts, harbingers of peace and democracy as is Libya, to name one, that a United Nations agency has put it on its black list for a bridge built ‘à la québécoise’. Who cares? Well, over the last fifty years, that field, engineering, has created tens of thousands of jobs here in Quebec, often with government funding, which meant that they could specify Quebec made goods, such as lowly but specialized gloves, made in Stanstead, for example. Now, engineering firms in other countries are not without their problems, but for the time being, it is ours who do have problems and foreign countries will skip them for a time at a huge cost to all.
Now it is always simple to simplify. So we won’t. Nor will we say that Mr. Sam Hammad, the transport minister who refused to read the report from Mr. Duchesneau as he said under oath, was the vice-president of an engineering and construction firm that got the contract to build an arena in Stanstead. Too simple.