Q&A with Lino Zambito: The corruption inquiry's star witness

Former construction boss Lino Zambito became a household name last fall when he opened the Charbonneau corruption inquiry with shocking testimony that described a city rife with corruption.

Quebec Charbonneau commission set to resume on Sept. 3

Lino Zambito says he is proud of his testimony and would do it again if given the chance. (CBC)

Former construction boss Lino Zambito became a household name last fall when he opened the Charbonneau corruption inquiry with his testimony and described a city rife with corruption and collusion.

One year later, Zambito sat down with Radio-Canada`s Marie-France Bazzo for a one-on-one interview about his transparency, the upcoming municipal election and the Mafia.

Marie-France Bazzo: Why were you so open and transparent in your testimony at the commission?

Lino Zambito: When I received the subpoena to testify, I decided to tell the commission what I had lived in order to help at least make some minor change in the Quebec construction industry, because I believed the industry … was sick.

Did it pay off?

LZ: I am proud of my testimony … of course there are some people who judge me … but if I had the chance to do it again tomorrow, I would do the same thing.

Do you feel you’ve paid a higher price than some other principal witnesses before the Charbonneau commission?

LZ: I was the first witness ... I find it strange that despite my bankruptcy the city of Montreal is still taking legal action against me … We’re offering information and solutions and they’re attacking the people who are being transparent.

They should focus on ending corruption and collusion in the Montreal area instead of attacking witnesses who are offering solutions.

In light of Quebec's upcoming Nov. 3 municipal elections, do you think there are still people who back candidates who were, for example, former members of the Union Montréal party?

LZ: The commission focused on Montreal and Laval. I thought this was unfortunate, because the North Shore is bad as well. Now we are two months away from the November elections and there are candidates in certain towns that I know were financed by engineering firms, by political parties. There are several towns on the North Shore that I know of.

So you don’t think there will be as much change in areas outside of Montreal?

LZ: I think Montreal and Laval will see changes because they were put in the spotlight. The towns on the North Shore and on the South Shore — I’m a little skeptical that any real change will happen.

Has the corruption inquiry taken enough time to look into the Mafia?

LZ: I think that we have only touched on the subject … I think the commission needs to take a closer look at organized crime and also the links between unions and the construction industry. I hope in the next days, the next weeks, we will really address that. I think they have only touched on a small part of something that is much bigger.

Do you think there’s a link between organized crime and unions?

LZ: They aren’t exactly the same thing, but one certainly goes with the other. Unions are often associated with biker gangs … so for me it’s just another type of organized crime. I think in the fall the commission will get to the bottom of that.

Do you have the impression that the efforts to clean up the construction industry, for instance UPAC (anti-corruption unit) raids, is it all enough? Is it working?

LZ: I think the effort is there, but it has to last. It can't just be there for the first three years of the Charbonneau commission. It must be permanent. They have to stay vigilant. The government must update its laws and evolve with the construction industry.

Do you regret being so transparent when you testified?

LZ: No, I said what I had to say. I said what I knew. I shared what I thought was important information that would help the commission move forward.  

The Quebec corruption inquiry is set to resume on Sept. 3.