On the night of October 15, Radio-Canada aired its investigative radio program Enquête, in which whistleblower François Beaudry – a former senior engineer at the Quebec Transport Ministry – along with construction company owners, revealed widespread tampering with the supposedly closed bidding process for Quebec road construction.
Beaudry alleged that firms now control who is awarded municipal contracts and the prices of those contracts. Beaudry went even further, revealing the forces behind this widespread collusion.
“It’s Montreal’s Italian Mafia that controls what is going on in road construction. They control, from what we can tell, 80 per cent of the contracts,” Beaudry told Radio-Canada.
The “Fabulous Fourteen” were 14 construction firms that would decide amongst themselves who would receive a contract and for how much. The agreement would be communicated through code: “We’ll start on the fourth hole; we’ll be a party of nine,” meant that the winning, lowest bid would be $4.9 million, according to Radio-Canada.
This report also stated that this system of collusion has inflated the cost of road construction in Quebec up to 35 per cent compared to other provinces.
These revelations have ignited a shit storm of accusations and political brouhaha at the municipal and provincial levels, with the top three parties in Montreal’s upcoming election and the opposition parties in Quebec all asking for a public inquiry.
On Thursday it was announced that Quebec was initiating the ominously named Opération Marteau (Operation Hammer), a special Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police squad, to investigate allegations of Mafia influence and widespread corruption. Quebec Premier Jean Charest has rebuffed calls for a public inquiry. The federal government has indicated that it will let the province handle the investigation.
The Montreal Gazette reported that some of the issues of serious concern to the police squad are that a man with close ties to the mafia sat in on a meeting to decide who would repair City Hall’s roof, and that “the Hells Angels have been using the construction industry to launder profits from drug trafficking by muscling their way in as subcontractors on large projects.”
After being up for one day, the Gazette reported that the SQ squad’s corruption hotline has already gotten many tips.