Quebec government has announced the creation of a new specialized squad to investigate alleged collusion and corruption in the construction industry. Opération Marteau, French for Operation Hammer, will include 60 provincial police officers, seven new Crown prosecutors and two members of the RCMP, Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis said Thursday. Quebec's labour and revenue ministers announced they would also table legislation aimed at blocking the access of criminal organizations to the industry.
Quebec Mayor admits accepting cash from construction magnate
Ville Marie borough Mayor Benoit Labonte confessed on Thursday to accepting cash from construction magnate Tony Accurso, one of the executives behind the now-defunct $355-million water-meter contract. But if he was going down, he wasn't going alone, he seemed to say in an exclusive interview with Radio Canada, accusing Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, as well as his own Vision Montreal party candidate Louise Harel, of turning a blind eye to illegal party financing. Speaking from an undisclosed location somewhere in Quebec, Mr. Labonte said he had to accept Mr. Accurso's money because political parties have no choice, but lied about the secret meetings and cash contributions in order to protect Ms. Harel, to whom he offered the party leadership in June.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay and opposition leaders said a public inquiry must be called if reports of price fixing and collusion for municipal infrastructure projects among Quebec construction firms are confirmed by police. In a report which aired Thursday night on Radio-Canada's investigative news program Enquete, Paul Sauve, president of the masonry company LM Sauve, said a group of contractors nicknamed "the Fabulous 14" control most of the bids in Montreal and have colluded to keep rates high, taking turns "winning" contracts. Construction costs in the Montreal area are 35 per cent higher than they should be because of the price fixing, one entrepreneur who spoke on condition of anonymity told Radio-Canada.