The Charbonneau Commission, officially the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry, is a public inquiry in Quebec, Canada into potential corruption in the management of public construction contracts.
- 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.
- Paint a picture of possible organized crime infiltration in the construction industry.
- 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.
At the Charbonneau inquiry, an "ex-construction boss said that for years, three per cent of the value of all contracts he received from the city of Montreal went to the mayor's party, and another one per cent, known as "la taxe à Surprenant," went to a city official.":66-106
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 Riadh 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. 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. 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.
Witnesses 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."
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.
Unité permanente anti-corruption (UPAC)
By July 2018, Quebec's Unité permanente anti-corruption (UPAC)—anti-corruption police force—which was established in 2011, had 114 convictions. UPAC prosecutors had laid "criminal charges against 331 people and companies". The UPAC undertook investigations stemming from testimonies from the Charbonneau Commission. Convictions from these investigations included those related to "operation Lauréat", former-Mayors Gilles Vaillancourt, Gérald Tremblay, and Michael Applebaum.
According to a November 28, 2018 Global News report, UPAC Officer Jean-Frédérick Gagnon, told the inquiry in 2014 that "operation Lauréat" was an investigation into "the biggest corruption fraud in Canadian history" implicating SNC-Lavalin in bribery for the construction of the McGill University Health Centre.
Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt resigned. In October 2012 police searched two residences owned by then-mayor of Laval, Gilles Vaillancourt, as well as 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.
As a result of the testimonies by witnesses at the Charbonneau Commission, on June 17, 2013 Montréal interim-mayor Michael Applebaum was arrested on charges of fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust, and corruption in municipal affairs.. On January 26, 2017, Québec Court Judge Louise Provost found Applebaum guilty of eight of the 14 corruption-related charges against him stemming activities that took place between 2006 and 2012 when he was serving as borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
In popular culture
- in French, fr:Commission d'enquête sur l'octroi et la gestion des contrats publics dans l'industrie de la construction
- "Commission d'enquête sur l'octroi et la gestion des contrats publics dans l'industrie de la construction: La Commission". Gouvernement du Québec. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- "Commission d'enquête sur l'octroi et la gestion des contrats publics dans l'industrie de la construction: Mandat". Gouvernement du Québec. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Saint-Martin, Denis (2015). "Systemic Corruption in an Advanced Welfare State: Lessons from the Quebec Charbonneau Inquiry". Osgoode Hall Law Journal. 53 (1): 43. Pages 66-106
- "SNC-Lavalin VP says he was given ‘no choice’ but to cheat on hospital proposal" 22 May 2014
- "Arthur Porter: timeline of a corruption scandal by Roberto Rocha". The Gazette. 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
- cjad.com: "Arthur Porter wants out of prison" 27 Mar 2014
- "'Donnie Brasco' testifies at Quebec corruption inquiry". CBC News.
- nationalpost.ca: "SNC-Lavalin bid-rigging scam extended beyond Montreal, exec tells inquiry" 18 Mar 2014
- lapresse.ca: "Boulet maintient qu'elle ignorait l'objectif de 100 000 $" 15 May 2014
- Perreaux, Les (July 4, 2018). "Quebec's anti-corruption crusade has resulted in many arrests but few convictions. Here's what has happened so far". The Globe and Mail. Montreal. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- Valiante, Giuseppe (November 28, 2018). "MUHC deserves the millions in criminal's bank account: lawyer". Global News. Montreal. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- "Laval mayor resigns amid corruption allegations". Montreal: CBC News. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
- Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay resigns amid Charbonneau Commission corruption allegations at the National Post; published November 5, 2012
- "Mayor of Montreal arrested". Associated Press. June 17, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Bernstien, Jaela; Shingler, Benjamin (January 26, 2017). "Ex-Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum found guilty of 8 corruption-related charges". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- Woods, Allan; Sher, Julian (June 17, 2013). "Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum charged with 14 offences". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
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