The days of a corrupt Montreal, where officials accept bribes and gangs control parts of town never really left. It's just harder to notice.
A recent court case, where a high-ranking official pled guilty to taking bribes, pretty much proves that Montreal is still corrupt in many ways.
Michel Fournier, the one-time head of Federal Bridge Corp., which oversees Montreal’s Jacque Cartier and Champlain bridges, told a courtroom Thursday that he willingly accepted $2.3 million in bribes, reports The Gazette.
Fournier took the bribe from SNC-Lavalin in 2000, promising to give the construction group a $127 million contract in return. The contract itself was to replace a deck on the Jacque Cartier Bridge.
Basically the president of bridges in Montreal from 1997 to 2004 (Fournier ran the Federal Bridge Corp. and The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated), Fournier took the money he received from the aformentioned bribes and proceeded to launder the cash in offshore accounts once he retired.
No wonder the bridges kind of suck.
Pleading guilty to his crimes, Fournier received a 5 1/2 year prison sentence, though he’ll probably get the chance for parole at the 11-month mark, notes The Gazette.
SNC-Lavalin was most definitely the company behind the bribery, yet no employees were charged. Some ex-SNC-Lavalin executives are in the courts right now, though, facing more construction-corruption charges.
One case in particular deals with the $1.3 billion contract given to SNC-Lavalin to build the McGill University Health Centre.
Even after it opened, the supposed “super hospital” was in a state of disrepair.
With defective wiring, a lack of space, and poor plumbing, the McGill University Health Centre is far from “super,” and it wouldn’t be too surprising to find some sort of bribery going on with that construction deal.
We look back and laugh Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the most over-budget construction project ever, which cost a whopping $3.1 billion to build. A famously laughable construction endeavour, corrupt contractors are now blamed for the incredibly high cost it took to build the stadium.
That would never happen today, right?
But Fournier’s court case and the charges facing SNC-Lavalin pretty much prove that corruption is alive and well in Montreal.
And it’s not just in the construction sector.
A city report released back in April outlined just how much gangs and criminal groups like the Hells Angels control the roads in Montreal.
The report’s author described Montreal as a “Wild Wild West,” with tow-truck drivers trafficking drugs, concealing weapons, and forcing Montrealers to fork up more cash to get a tow.
“Criminal organizations, such as the Hells Angels, Italian Mafia or street gangs, have been – and remain today – present in the world of towing and are operating on the territory of the City of Montreal,” says the report.
And this is just two industries in Montreal. Rather important ones, of course, but who knows what other sectors are dominated by criminal elements?
Speculation isn’t exactly the best thing to do, and will probably create unfounded accusations. But what’s depressing is how much this hurts us, the average Montrealer.
Shoddy construction on incredibly important pieces of infrastructure like the Jacque-Cartier or Champlain Bridge screws over the people who use it everyday. Same goes for being forced to pay more than you should for a tow-truck.
Corruption is still ever-present in Montreal and we’re all paying the price. Hopefully, that changes in the future, but history says otherwise.