Just where are those billions for infrastructure going exactly?

charest-asleep-at-the-wheel-chapleau-la-presseI’ll admit it: DMA has been pretty hard on the ADQ. I’d apologize if I felt it was unwarranted but, alas, I don’t. That said, when props are due, they are awarded.

The ADQ had its first good idea in a long while yesterday when they called for an inquiry into the dodgier elements in Quebec’s construction industry. Interim leader Sylvie Roy, who was last seen championing an out-of-nowhere campaign against pedophiles, says the Charest government should look into the corruption allegations before it begins pouring $43 billion into the sector by way of infrastructure spending. And it’s a request that appears to be getting more reasonable by the day.

Let’s recap:

  • La Presse revealed in early March that the Sûreté du Québec has for the past two years been investigating possible ties between organized crime figures and the province’s construction industry. According to La Presse‘s sources, the investigation uncovered possible links between the leadership of FTQ-Construction, the union representing construction workers, and certain elements of the Hells Angels. The discovery is said to have prompted the seemingly abrupt departure of union head Jocelyn Dupuis back in September 2008 after colleagues were informed he might have entertained a relationship with the criminal biker gang, specifically a member named Normand “Casper” Ouimet.
  • In late March, the SQ raided the offices of nearly a dozen Quebec construction companies, along with those of the FTQ-Construction as part of its investigation. According to the SQ, the aim of the raids was to obtain documents relating to an alleged money-laundering scheme. Among the companies targetted was Guay Inc., the biggest crane builder in Canada and the former employer of one-time union head Jocelyn Dupuis. The vice-president of sales at Guay Inc., Louis-Pierre Lafortune, is also reportedly a childhood friend Hells Angel “Casper” Ouimet.
  • Two Revenue Canada officials were arrested by the RCMP and two others picked up for questioning on Wednesday over an alleged scheme to hide $4.5 million from the taxman. The ruse involved three construction companies who would stash the funds in dummy corporations to avoid paying taxes on them. According to the Globe‘s Daniel Leblanc, aka the guy who broke sponsorship scandal story wide open,  one of the officials that was arrested works in the department’s black-market activities section, while the other works in its tax evasion section. Revenue Canada had been conducting an internal investigation into Quebec’s construction sector when “something clicked, something smelled bad…and they called in the RCMP,” Leblanc said.
  • Canadian Press reports all three companies under investigation by Revenue Canada are run by construction magnate Tony Accurso. The FTQ has a lengthy history with Accurso, having poured a total of $114 million into his construction firms. FTQ leaders have also been known to accompany Accurso on trips aboard his yacht. Earlier in the week, it had been revealed that the former president of the City of Montreal’s executive committee, Frank Zampino, had travelled with Accurso aboard the same luxurious yacht just months before one of Accurso’s firms was awarded a lucrative $356 million contract to install water metres on city homes. (Zampino says he paid his own way on the trip and the city maintains there was no conflict of interest.)

I’m just scratching the surface here. There’s a lot more that’s already been reported and, presumably, at least as much that hasn’t. Keep in mind that these events (aside from the SQ investigation, of course) aren’t even a month old. And every day it seems the story gets more and more complex. It’s going to be hard for the Charest government (and, perhaps, as of now, the Harper government) to somehow put the genie back in the bottle. Sylvie Roy just might be onto something in suggesting it’s time for everyone to cut their losses and shed some light on all this nonsense as soon as possible—that is, before all this “shovels-in-the-ground” money everyone’s been promised gets delivered.

[Image: Serge Chapleau, La Presse]