Press-Republican

Black

October 7, 2011

Canada has history of construction scandals

Quebec has been gripped for the past several weeks by allegations of deeply entrenched collusion and corruption in the construction industry.

One might say the latest revelations are simply part of a long tradition of shadiness in the building business; you might even say Canada was built on building scandals. Indeed, the country's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was chased from office in 1874 over a railway financing kick-back scheme. (Sir John was back four years later, though.) Even the construction of the new country's Parliament buildings was mired in corruption.

In Quebec, a succession of leaders have found themselves fending off accusations of wrong-doing relating to the construction of something or other. This dates back to the late 1800s, when Honoré Mercier, a hero of Quebec history, was dismissed from the premier's office and eventually dragged in front of a judge on charges of profiting from — once again — railway construction cash. He was cleared of all charges but shortly thereafter died a broken man.

In more recent times, then-premier Robert Bourassa's mega-project in the 1970s to tap the electricity potential of the mighty rivers of Quebec's vast north spawned a massive scandal and a public inquiry into the violent and corrupt tactics of union officials. (That probe, incidentally, launched the public career of future prime minister Brian Mulroney, one of the inquiry's lawyers.) While it was not specifically the James Bay construction imbroglio that led to Bourassa's defeat in 1976, the affair left a taint on his government.

Subsequent Quebec governments have adopted measures to keep big union construction jobs free of collusion and organized crime. But the latest disclosures that have surfaced paint a disturbing picture of how such controls appear to have failed.

Three weeks ago, a report leaked to the media caused an uproar with its allegations of mob involvement and political kickbacks in major transport construction contracts. While not naming names, the report contained sufficient detail and certainty to spark a chorus of calls for a full public inquiry.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Black
  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Trench warfare in Quebec elections

    I've seen many a Quebec election in my day (I'll skip the "by cracky"), writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Dr. Phil's election prescription Philippe Couillard is a brain surgeon, not a psychiatrist, so his expertise is not necessarily understanding the collective mind of Quebecers, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Party's charter flight to majority

    It's not surprising the political maneuvering in recent weeks in Quebec City has been dubbed the "winter games," writes Canadian columnist Peter Black

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Joe Ryan's mountain vision

    Eventually someone surely would have taken the initiative to turn what the Algonquins called Manitonga Soutana and the locals called Mont Tremblant into a popular outdoor recreational destination, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    February 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Montreal's Genie on the courts

    In a land where raquettes de neige (snowshoes) are more popular than raquets (tennis), a young Canadian with classic California surfer girl looks is turning heads on the court.

    January 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Columnist's Canada in 1954

    I will depart from my usual discreet journalistic anonymity just this once and offer a few personal reflections on my life as a Canadian, writes columnist Peter Black.

    January 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Prime minister's hockey history

    By my count, President Barack Obama has written three books under his own pen, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Quebec City displays Holy Door

    It's the first and only such thing in North America: a Holy Door, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 13, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Rouge et Or Tide rolls on

    Much like I probably will never understand the system by which Americans choose their presidents, what with primaries and the electoral college and all, I likely will never understand how Americans decide the best college football team, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    November 29, 2013 1 Photo