Charbonneau commission: Final report on corruption expected this week

Quebec's public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry — better known as the Charbonneau commission — has taken nearly four years and has cost $35 million. Now, finally, it's the moment we've all been waiting for: the report's release.

Report on corruption expected to examine systemic problems in Quebec construction industry

Justice France Charbonneau oversaw the corruption inquiry at which some of Quebec's top businesspeople and politicians testified. (CBC)

Quebec's public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry — better known as the Charbonneau commission — has taken nearly four years and has cost $35 million.

Dozens of witnesses have testified how cash-for-contracts, kickbacks, illegal party financing and expensive gifts pervaded relationships between public office, construction companies, organized crime and unions. 

And now, finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: the head of the commission, Justice France Charbonneau, is expected to file her final report this week.

Here are three things to watch for in her report:

1. Boiling it down

The city says there are more than 400 work sites in the city right now. (CBC)

The commission's mandate is very large. Justice France Charbonneau, the commission's chair, and her co-commissioner Renaud Lachance were charged with examining the strategies of collusion and corruption in the awarding of public construction contracts, as well as looking at how organized crime infiltrated the system and what role political party financing played, over a period of 15 years.

It hasn't been an easy task to boil it all down.

The inquiry was criticized for spending a lot of time studying the minute details of how contracts were handed out in municipalities like Montreal and then breezing over other points, such as illegal party financing at the provincial level.

2. The name-blame game

Over the past year, the inquiry sent out some 200 notices warning individuals, companies and groups that they could be "blamed" in the final report — meaning they could be named in connection to certain corruption or collusion schemes.

However, the commission will have to tread carefully when it chooses to name or shame, since commissions of inquiry are not allowed to assign guilt in the legal sense.  

In May 2015, the inquiry allowed people who received a "blame" notice to respond, but what they said at the hearings was slapped with a publication ban.

The ban will be lifted once the Charbonneau report is handed to the government.

3. Serious, not flashy

A photo taken on a trip to the Virgin Islands in 2005 shows businessman Tony Accurso scrubbing the back of Jean Lavallée, former head of the construction wing of Quebec's biggest labour federation. (Charbonneau commission)

The inquiry heard plenty of juicy details, from the safe at the municipal party headquarters that wouldn't close because it was overflowing with cash, to the city engineer who tried to gamble away his bribe money to somehow give back to government coffers.

The commission saw hidden-camera video of reputed Mafia bosses stuffing their socks with cash, along with a slew of photos showing politicians wining and dining with construction entrepreneurs in exotic locales.
Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. stashes money in his sock that he receives from Montrel construction entrepreneur Accursio Sciascia. The image is taken from RCMP surveillance footage presented at the Charbonneau commission on Sept. 26, 2012.

But the final report won't be focused on the flashy parts.

Rather, the report will examine the systemic problems that plague the construction industry and what the government has to do to tackle them.

Expect a long list of recommendations, culled from what various experts told the inquiry after the main testimony wrapped up.

About the Author

Salimah Shivji


Salimah Shivji is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau.


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