Yes, Premier Charest, an inquiry

Posted 10.27.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Let me add another voice supporting a public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry in Quebec. Premier Charest announced one, but given his original insistence that an inquiry will never happen, his lack of details is not encouraging.

There may be reasons against an inquiry. It (or they) will be ultra-expensive, and money is short these days; lawyers will make immense earnings from it, as will other consultants and experts, all the usual camp followers of government initiatives.

As well, the history of inquiries is not heartening -- rarely do they translate into anything more than more work for lawyers drafting legislation that gets crafted into irrelevance during the legislative process. It will produce another bureaucracy, be sure of that, and that agency will cost plenty, largely due to salaries for the lawyers who staff it.

There will be inspectors, many regulations, fines and penalties, and perhaps even a mini-system of mini-courts to try the offenders. All in all, this will cost at least ten times what corruption is costing us now.

Finally, how will the Liberals and the PQ replace the party contributions, which likely will stop flowing from the construction organizations, er, companies? Will they go right to the source, organized crime -- and how will that be an improvement?

On principle, we can't bury the threat, at least, of an inquiry. If any criminal groups, wearing suits or on motorcycles, hear that public scrutiny has its limits, we are in for even more trouble. Trouble like political parties getting even more money with which to broadcast their honesty and integrity.

There has to be a spotlight put on any shady corner where the free market and political parties converge. Public accountability has to be at least a threat, if never a reality.

The inquiry must cover both building construction and highway construction. Both sectors are buried in dark, dirty clouds, in the public eye. Both sectors need public scrutiny -- especially within the Transport Ministry, probably the least open to citizen inspection and participation of any ministry, although Education is a close second.

Why exactly does it cost several million dollars to lay down a little asphalt (on an established road bed)? Who sets these costs? Why are there traffic lights and not traffic circles? Who decides? And why is all this so hush-hush at MoT?

An inquiry of public edifice construction might spill over into other sensitive turf, like the shell game the feds play with office buildings.

The inquiry could become a huge embarrassment, and for this reason plus the threats it proposes to some bureaucrats, corporate and union leaders, and motorcycle gangs, just as it's about to begin we'll likely get another language crisis, and everyone will stop thinking. The nation will be saved, or not, or some other national vision will arise, or it won't. In any case, a year later the inquiry will have evaporated in all the heat.

But we still need that inquiry.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.11