Charbonneau Commission

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The Charbonneau Commission, officially the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry,[1] is a public inquiry in Quebec, Canada into potential corruption in the management of public construction contracts.

The commission was enacted on 19 October 2011 by the provincial Liberal government of Jean Charest, and is chaired by Justice France Charbonneau.[2] The mandate of the Committee is to:

  1. Examine the existence of schemes and, where appropriate, to paint a portrait of activities involving collusion and corruption in the provision and management of public contracts in the construction industry (including private organizations, government enterprises and municipalities) and to include any links with the financing of political parties.
  2. Paint a picture of possible organized crime infiltration in the construction industry.
  3. Examine possible solutions and make recommendations establishing measures to identify, reduce and prevent collusion and corruption in awarding and managing public contracts in the construction industry.[3]


  • Riadh Ben Aissa, in 2009 the president of the construction division at SNC-Lavalin (SNC), was told that his firm’s proposal to build McGill University’s new super-hospital was faulty. However, someone on the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) had illegally given him a copy of the OHL consortium architectural drawings, which were favoured by the clinicians. Charles Chebl, who at the time was working under Ben Aissa and has since replaced him as head of construction for SNC, testified in May 2014 that Ben Aissa told him to incorporate the OHL design into a hasty revision of SNC’s plan. Chebl apparently demurred, and then was called to a meeting by then-CEO Pierre Duhaime where he claims to have been instructed to plagiarise the OHL design. Ben Aissa and Duhaime allegedly arranged payments of $22.5-million to MUHC CEO Arthur Porter and his right-hand-man Yanai Elbaz in exchange for ensuring SNC won the $1.3-billion contract.[4] The contract was awarded to SNC in July 2010 and by the end of 2011, Porter had resigned all of his positions of public trust, and in February 2013 the police issued a warrant for his arrest.[5] Porter has since absconded justice for "fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, secret commissions and laundering the proceeds of a crime" related to the construction of the super-hospital, but he is fighting extradition from a Panama jail cell.[6]
  • Witnesses have detailed a system of bid-rigging that saw a cartel of engineering and construction firms obtain public contracts from the city of Montreal in exchange for political donations. Collusion in the construction industry extended across the river to the city of Longueuil, testified Yves Cadotte, who was in 2014 senior vice-president and general manager of SNC’s transport, infrastructure and buildings division. The trick was for the politicians to solicit envelopes and briefcases of cash that were not directly related to the contracts for which tenders were requested, in order by that artifice to be able to skirt anti-bribery laws. Cadotte said the other engineering companies that were part of Longueuil’s system at the time were Genivar Inc., Dessau, Groupe SM and Cima+. In one instance the politicians requested $200,000, and Cadotte delivered $125,000 in cash to Liberal party fundraiser Bernard Trépanier, who stashed it in a briefcase. For the remaining $75,000, he said SNC agreed at the party’s request to pay an invoice from a Montreal communications firm for services that were largely never rendered. Cadotte was asked whether he ever thought about denouncing the collusion to the Competition Bureau of Canada, which has a policy of clemency for whistleblowers. Cadotte answered “No.”[7]
  • Julie Boulet, the Quebec Minister of Transport during the Liberal government of Jean Charest, contradicted herself when she denied her previous day's testimony that she was well aware of the requirement that cabinet ministers needed to raise funds annually in the amount $100,000. That is, in order to obtain and maintain a cabinet-level job in Quebec one must be able to provide or shepherd $100,000 in campaign contributions.[8]


  • Resignation of Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt: in October 2012 police searched two of Vaillancourt's residences, municipal buildings, and safety deposit boxes rented by Vaillancourt. On 24 October Vaillancourt announced that he would be temporarily leaving his function as mayor for health reasons. On 9 November he resigned as mayor, denying all of the corruption allegations against him. On May 9, 2013 he was arrested at his home by the police and charged with gangsterism.[9]
  • Resignation of Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay on November 5, 2012 as a direct result of revelations made in the Commission.[10]
  • Resignation of Montreal interim-mayor Michael Applebaum on June 18, 2013 after his arrest and 14 criminal charges stemming from activities linked to companies central to the Commission's testimony.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

In the fall of 2017, the Charbonneau Commission was portrayed in the miniseries Bad Blood about Montreal's Rizzuto crime family. France Charbonneau was played by Claudia Ferri.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]