July 24, 2012 - No. 101
Monthly March of Quebec Students
Tens of Thousands Demonstrate in Support
of Call to Defeat the Liberals and Stop Fee Hikes
Montreal, July 22, 2012
• Tens of Thousands Demonstrate in Support of
Call to Defeat the Liberals and Stop Fee Hikes
• "We Are the Future" Students Affirm
• New Website Mobilizes Students to Exercise
Right to Vote
Education Is a Right
• University of Montreal Professors Say Plan to
Resume Classes Imposed Without Consultation
• Government Refusal to Negotiate with Students
Costs $7.3 Million in Overtime
Strike at the Quebec
• Workers Oppose Extortion of Concessions
Industry Linked to Government Corruption
• Overview of the Charbonneau Commission's Work
- Normand Fournier
Monthly March of Quebec Students
Tens of Thousands Demonstrate in Support of Call to
Defeat the Liberals and Stop Fee Hikes
On Sunday, July 22, under the theme "Neoliberals Out,"
nearly 100,000 people responded to the call of the Broad Coalition of
Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE) for the fifth monthly mass
demonstration since March. With one voice, people of all ages and
from all sectors proclaimed that the Charest government
is an obstacle in the path of the Quebec people. Beginning at 2 pm,
tens of thousands of people marched for
two hours through downtown Montreal, from Emilie-Gamelin Park to Jean
Charest's offices in downtown Montreal. All along the way they were met
with the honking of horns
and other expressions of support from passers-by, including residents
waving red squares from their balconies as the demonstrators passed.
People from all walks of life participated: students,
workers, families with their children, community groups
and political parties. The atmosphere was one of optimism and
confidence based on what has been achieved thus far, especially in the
context of the attacks by the Liberals and the
media against the student movement and their hopes that it would fizzle
out. On the contrary -- the movement opposed to the Charest government
continues to develop conviction in the justness of its demands and is
ready to lead the battle against these representatives of neoliberalism
in the next election.
The demonstrators and speakers highlighted the Charest
government's increasingly palpable fear of the mobilization against it.
CLASSE co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said, "We are frightening
them with our determination and our ideas. [...] We are thousands of
students and workers, tracking the Liberals'
scandals. [...] We are hundreds of thousands who dream of more for
Quebec, who are determined to kick out the Liberals and Jean Charest.
We are hundreds of thousands who want to give the people back their
"Not so long ago, we said 'Another Quebec is Possible.'
Today, I am certain that this Quebec already exists [...] it's only a
matter of time before it becomes a reality," he said, calling on the
people to continue their fight against the Charest government.
Demonstrations also took place in Quebec City and
Trois-Rivières. Below are photos of the Montreal demonstration.
"We Are the Future" Students Affirm
On the eve of a possible election, the students say they
are ready to defeat the Quebec Liberal Party.
On July 12, the Broad Coalition of Student Union
Solidarity (CLASSE) held a press conference to launch its manifesto,
"We Are the Future" and announce a cross-Quebec tour.
The student association reiterated its concern about
those who want to restrict them to the margins of a representative
democracy, limiting their participation in political life to a vote
once every four years. As their
manifesto points out, "What started as a student strike has become a
popular struggle -- the question of tuition fees has permitted
us to touch on a deeper malaise, to discuss a larger political problem.
[...] When we take to the streets and set up picket lines, that's a
living democracy. It's a popular democracy."
To the polls on September 4. Charest: "This
exactly what I had in mind!" (In
the container used to hold ashes). (Le Devoir)
In the same vein, the press conference brought out the
students' preoccupation with ensuring the electoral campaign does not
into a cheap popularity contest. "This is the opposite of a campaign of
seduction; it is a real discussion. We're putting forward ideas, not
slogans. We want the debate to reach Quebec's
very foundations," said one of CLASSE's co-spokespersons Gabriel
"People are mobilizing because they feel included in the
decision-making process. They don't feel like pawns directed by some
"We aren't supporting any political parties, but
obviously, we are against one [particular] party," he added.
Throughout the strike, the Charest government tried all
sorts of diversions to avoid dealing with the tuition fee increase. Two
of the spokespersons, Nadeau-Dubois and Jeanne Reynolds pointed out,
"The idea is to go back to the basic demands, to explain our
values to people and what we have to offer."
The tour started on July 13 in Sorel and continues until
mid-August, visiting twenty more cities across Quebec. "We want to take
advantage of the vacation season because people have time off. We will
go to public events, public gatherings and big rallies," they said.
"We have a plan for places to go. And we have support
everywhere. If people want to ask questions and give criticism, they
are welcome to. All sorts of prejudices have been spread by the media,
so we're keen to be able to discuss and debate them directly."
CLASSE held its congress on the weekend of July
14-15 at the University of Laval, where it adopted its action plan
for the start of classes. "Our priority for the start of the session is
the general assemblies to be held in the first few days [of classes] to
consult people and determine their willingness to remain
on strike or not. It will be a large debate. And if they want to
continue, people will have to decide what they want to do about the
Special Law. Will we respect it or not? Will we set up picket lines or
The Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) and
Federation of Quebec College Students (FECQ) which have already
targeted electoral ridings to block the Liberals from being elected
will hold their respective congresses from August 10-12. On August 12
they will hold a joint meeting to share their
conclusions and elaborate a plan of action for both the start of
classes and elections.
Despite being mired in a deep crisis of legitimacy and
corruption, the PLQ arrogantly said it is
keeping an eye on the student associations. "Everyone has the right to
express themselves, but if they decide to become a player in the
campaign, they must respect the rules," warned the PLQ's
communications director, Michel Rochette.
"Like all political parties, we are watched 24 hours a
day to make sure everything is done according to the laws and rules, so
this must also be the case for the student associations," he added.
"Democracy means that everyone has the choice of who to
vote for. What is important is to go and vote. Whether it be the
students, or any other group, it is through electoral choice that a
government gains legitimacy, and then passes laws that must be
respected, which sounds good to me. If we start with the
objective to respect the law, I think it will go well," government
House Leader, Jean-Marc Fournier lectured the students.
The Director General of Elections Quebec (DGEQ) also
came to the Liberal's aid. The students and other "third parties" can
"express" their opinions and participate in the "democratic debate"
during an electoral campaign so long as their partisan activities don't
involve spending, said DGEQ
spokesperson Cynthia Gagnon.
What could better illustrate a representative
than using the high ideal of defending democracy to put in place every
possible obstacle to block the body politic from participating in
The people's marginalization from participating in
decision-making on matters that affect their lives is
exactly what the students and their allies have been raising for months
and this is what will be at the heart of the next elections.
New Website Mobilizes Students to
Exercise Right to Vote
The site Vote étudiant au Québec (Quebec
Student Vote) was launched in early July with the aim of "informing
students whose 'principle residence' is on campus that they have the
right to change their address with the Director General of Quebec
Elections (DGEQ) in order to vote in large numbers in their university
or college's riding. Those who oppose the student movement maintain
that democracy is only exercised once every four years, and that the
only acceptable way to express disagreement with the government is to
The site provides the procedure for students who wish to
vote where their campus is located, and cites the relevant
portions the Quebec Electoral Act that permit this.
The site adds that, "All students are
encouraged to vote, regardless of their position on the strike and
regardless of their political affiliations. If the government is
confident in its argument that the 'non-strikers' fully support it, it
should not fear a massive student vote which is perfectly consistent
the democratic norms of our electoral system.
"The students have every interest in realizing the
potential of a strong mobilization and channelling it to specific
constituencies to teach the leaders that no one can win politically by
dividing the population for electoral purposes."
To access the site, click here or visit
Education Is a Right!
University of Montreal Professors Say Plan to Resume
Classes Imposed Without Consultation
The University of Montreal
administration claims to have
found a "concerted solution" to the student strike. However, the
General Union of Professors of the University of Montreal (SGPUM) has
rejected this "solution," pointing out that it was excluded from
discussions after the Special Law was adopted May 18,
adding that the administration's "solution" is in contempt of its
"The university has used the Special Law to act unilaterally," said
SGPUM President Jean Portuguese.
The union filed a grievance on June 20 and an arbitrator
is to settle the matter this month. The basis for the grievance is that
"the university does not have the right to modify the conditions of
employment stipulated in the collective agreement without negotiating a
letter of agreement with the SGPUM according
to the Labour Code." One example Portuguese
pointed out is the addition of seven teaching weeks
for hundreds of professors without prior negotiation with the union.
Anne-Marie Boisvert, the university's vice-rector of
human resources and planning, claimed the adoption of the Special Law
had no effect on the university's plans to resume classes,
which were concluded "a few days" earlier. "The union wasn't talking
about formal negotiations before the law was adopted. It was after that
the tone changed," she claimed.
The union states that the university's administrators
"are ignoring the reality on the ground" by imposing a global solution
rather than opening the door to "local" solutions, despite the
university's claims that its plan will permit the various university
to act in a targeted manner according to the
needs of each program or course.
Government Refusal to Negotiate with Students Costs
$7.3 Million in Overtime
It has just been revealed in the media that the
extensive police deployment since the start of the student strike has
cost $7.3 million in overtime from the Montreal Police Service (SPVM)
Radio-Canada obtained the figures for the period of
February 1 to June 27 under the Access to Information Act.
The first two months of the strike alone cost $5.6
million in overtime hours.
For its part, the Quebec Provincial Police
has refused to reveal the costs of policing the student demonstrations.
It claims that revealing this information would risk public safety.
Strike at the Quebec Construction
Workers Oppose Extortion of Concessions
Commission workers begin their
strike, Montreal, June 5, 2012.
The workers of the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ)
have been on strike since June 5 and the strike is now entering its
eight week. These workers are members of Local 573 of the Canadian
Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE). The CCQ is the state
agency responsible for the implementation
of the laws and rules that apply to the construction sector, including
collective agreements. The workers are on strike against the attempt by
the CCQ to extort concessions on wages, benefits and pensions. The main
issue, the union reports, are the concessions being demanded under the
hoax of reducing the deficit
in the pension plan. A few days before the workers went on strike, the
conciliator appointed by the Quebec government presented a proposal for
a new contract. The union's bargaining committee said it would
recommend it to its members but the CCQ rejected it because it did not
go far enough in terms of the concessions
it wants from the workers.
Workers are holding pickets in many Quebec cities to
oppose the attacks on their working conditions.
On July 16, at the urging of COPE National President
Serge Cadieux, Labour Minister Lise Thériault appointed former
Deputy Minister of Labour Normand Gauthier as special mediator to the
case. Gauthier worked at the Ministry of Labour for 22 years, including
time as a mediator-conciliator. Following his term as Deputy Minister
in 2001, he was chairman of the Essential Services Council until 2007.
Both parties to the dispute expressed satisfaction with the choice of
mediator. Gauthier's role
includes formulating recommendations to the parties without imposing a
The CCQ's conduct since the strike began is indicative
of its contempt for the workers and their union. The CCQ has been
trying to use scabs, for which the union lodged a complaint with the
Labour Board. On June 19 the Board ruled that the CCQ hired at least
one person illegally to perform work during
the strike that a unionized worker usually does and asked that the CCQ
cancel his hiring. The union also reached an agreement a day before
with the CCQ according to which the CCQ must cancel the hiring of 25
other people hired prior to the strike, essentially an admission by
the CCQ that these people are
also scabs. According to the union, it is the first time that a public
sector employer has been caught using scabs during a labour dispute in
The union has also made a complaint to the Labour
Board for bad faith bargaining. As a public sector employer, the CCQ is
bound to offer working conditions that are within the parameters of
what is authorized by the Treasury Board for all public sector workers
and COPE argues that the proposal made
by the conciliator was within these parameters and therefore the CCQ
could not legally reject it.
The CCQ workers have now been without a contract since
December 2009. They were part of the Common Front of public sector
workers in 2009-2010 and they are the only ones who have not settled.
The last of the other unions settled more than a year ago. The union
reports that all contending issues besides pensions had
been sorted out under the CCQ's previous
CEO who the Charest government forced to resign. A new CEO was
appointed in January 2011, who immediately changed the whole
of the CCQ's bargaining committee.
The union reports that under this new leadership, all
the agreements reached in negotiations have now been erased by the CCQ,
which dictated that everything should start from scratch. COPE reports
that the CCQ came up with a new list of concessions which amounted to a
total rewrite of the contract and affected
all aspects of their working conditions including wages, work
rules, benefits and pensions. The CCQ is particularly adamant in
demanding changes to the pension plan, including an increase in the
contributions made by the workers, under the hoax of reducing the
plan's deficit. At the end of 2011, dozens of CCQ
employees resigned out of exasperation with the CCQ's dictate.
These are not the only changes that are being made at
the CCQ. As part of its campaign to attack the construction workers and
their unions under the hoax of opposing violence and intimidation, the
Charest government passed Bill 15 in June 2011, the Anti-Corruption
Act, which has a whole section
on the CCQ.
Among other things, Bill 15 disaffiliated 300 workers
from the union
who have the power to carry out investigations on
construction sites. They can unionize so long as they are not
affiliated with another union or union central. It was openly said at
that time that these employees should not belong to an organization
that has construction workers in it. The union is challenging this part
of the law in court. The bill also created a special
"anti-corruption" unit which acts secretly within the CCQ and whose
activities are not
even known to its Board of Directors.
Then, in December 2011, the Charest government passed
Bill 33 to attack the construction workers and their unions, under the
hoax of opposing corruption in the construction industry, which imposed
further changes on the CCQ. It modified the composition of its Board,
adding four so-called independent members
appointed by the government. Until that time, the Board had been made
up of its President and of an equal number of representatives of the
unions and of the employers' associations. Bill 33 also eliminated the
placement of workers at worksites by the union and put CCQ in charge
and made it illegal for
the unions to have direct contact with the companies regarding the
hiring of workers. Traditionally, union placement was used by the
unions to oppose discrimination in hiring, for example against women
It seems that the CCQ is being transformed into an
apparatus of repression and criminalization of the construction workers
under the hoax of opposing corruption, violence and intimidation. These
measures and the wrecking of the working conditions of the CCQ
employees have been promoted by the CEO of
the Commission as a cleanup of the Commission.
The CCQ workers have been fighting these attacks
and have held actions of various kinds, including against the so-called
Act and the disaffiliation of their 300 members.
Quebec Construction Industry Linked to
Overview of the Charbonneau Commission's Work
vehemently reject being made to take the blame for the corruption and
collusion of the
construction companies and the Charest government.
A report on government corruption and the construction
industry, known as the Duchesneau Report came to light in September
2011, revealing "disturbing findings." "The more contracts [the
construction companies] have, the more they give [to the political
parties' coffers]; the more they give, the more influence
they have; the more influence they have, the more contracts they get.
This influence is then exercised everywhere," said one witness quoted
in the Duchesneau Report.
After years of refusing to take action on government
corruption in the construction industry, the revelations in the report
forced the Charest government to announce on October 19, 2011 a
commission of inquiry into the granting and
administration of government contracts in the construction
industry. Chaired by Justice France Charbonneau, it is
known as the Charbonneau Commission.
Charbonneau Commission Mandate
The mandate of the Commission is to:
1. Examine the existence of any schemes and, where
appropriate, portray how they might involve collusion and corruption in
the granting and management of public contracts in the construction
industry, including possible links to the funding of political parties;
2. Develop a picture of possible infiltration of the
construction industry by organized crime;
3. Consider possible solutions and make recommendations
for measures to identify, reduce and prevent collusion and corruption
in the granting and management of public contracts in the construction
industry and its infiltration by organized crime.
The public portion of the Charbonneau Commission's work
in Montreal started on May 22 with Judge Charbonneau's opening
statement. The judge made it clear that the Commission is independent
of the government. "No one can dictate its conduct, tell it who to
examine or how to investigate," she said.
On June 4, the Charbonneau Commission dedicated half a
day to choosing the participants and intervenors in the hearings. It
June 7 that there would be eight participants and six
intervenors. Although the Commission was to address the financing of
political parties, it came
as a surprise that the Quebec Liberal Party -- in power since
2003 -- did not request any status.
The Commission held nine days of hearings of witness
testimonies from June 8 to 21. The first witness was Jacques Lafrance,
a retired engineer who worked for 35 years for the Quebec government.
was characterized as representing an "institutional memory" of the
contracts awarded by the Quebec government.
His testimony brought out that cash from the industry
was already circulating around the political parties during the reign
of Maurice Duplessis (which lasted until 1959). The practice of
charging for "extras" (inflated prices charged by construction
companies that hid the transfer of funds to them from the political
parties) was well-ingrained in the habits of contractors and political
Contrary to Lafrance's claim that before the 1990s, it
was an "open bar" situation for contractors, this was not the case. The
improved in the 1960s and 1970s. The first timid reforms date back to
the 1970s, under Robert Bourassa. In 1978 the Parti
Québécois created "Rosalie," a list of government
2006 the Act respecting contracting
by public bodies (LCOP) was passed
which came into force in 2008.
Michel Dumont, an
expert consultant for the undersecretary responsible for public
procurement within Quebec's Treasury Board, was the second to testify.
He explained that the LCOP
sets the framework for the current process for tendering of public
contracts. Dumont pointed out that this law "relies
first and foremost on the ethical values" of the decision-makers. Among
other things, the law states that any purchases more than $25,000 and
any contracts for more than $100,000 must be granted by public tender.
provides exceptions for Crown corporations, including
Hydro-Québec and municipalities.
Dumont also revealed that construction firms maintain
lists of people who serve on the departmental selection committees that
consider the tenders. It also came to light that incompetent
construction companies are rarely penalized.
The third witness was Marcel Carpentier, an engineer for
the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ). His testimony revealed that the
MTQ awarded 4,662 contracts worth at least $25,000 each in 2011-2012,
for a total of $3,978 million; that the MTQ wanted 970 more engineers;
and that it had submitted 39 proposals
to the Treasury Board on how to more effectively fight corruption and
Chantal Gingras, Assistant Deputy Minister of the MTQ,
was the fourth witness. She explained that the MTQ prepares the list of
roadwork sites by electoral district. She said that on
numerous occasions, she presented the list under preparation to the
Minister of Transportation's office. She said that the
MTQ oversees 1,600 worksites per year and that its 14 regional offices
award the majority of the contracts.
The statements of these two senior MTQ officials
prompted Minister of Transportation Pierre Moreau, to give a
clarification on how roadwork sites are prioritized in the
constituencies. "The idea is not to play favourites. The idea is to
determine the order in which specific work in an area should be done,"
said at a press conference prior to Question Period in the National
Assembly on June 13. For his part Delegate Minister for
Transportation Normand MacMillan said, "MLAs must be able to do their
job when they receive requests from local councillors. MLAs must also
have a say in setting priorities in the
The fourth day of hearings opened with the
much-anticipated testimony of Jacques Duchesneau, former head of the
Anti-Corruption Unit (UAC) of Transport Quebec who authored
the Duchesneau Report. He leaked the report to Radio Canada
because he felt the government would not take action on its findings.
the hearings Duchesneau recounted the UAC's rather difficult history
within the MTQ office, how collected 150 anonymous testimonies and
concluded in his report that engineers from consulting firms and
Transport Quebec employees provided
privileged information to construction companies. He stated that a
large number of Quebec construction companies maintained links with
criminal organizations. Duchesneau likened organized crime to a "state
actor" (i.e., acting on behalf of a government). It uses the
construction industry to launder money earned
from drug trafficking, he said.
Duchesneau presented the work done by the UAC, including
a chart depicting the links between the construction companies and
their subsidiaries and seven flowcharts identifying cross-ownership and
the links between management at the major Quebec construction companies:
One of the charts
showing the interrelation of Quebec's construction companies, in this
case those of the Accurso Family -- click
to enlarge as PDF.
- Accurso Family: 63 companies
- Neilson-EBC-FAVA Family: 16 companies
- Garnier Construction: 14 companies
- CATANIA Enterprises: 17 companies
- CATCAN Enterprises: 6 companies
- Doncar Group: 19 companies
- Bibeau Family: 12 companies
The engineering firms from these companies design the
contract specifications, their construction firms win the contracts and
their technical experts approve the work.
The UAC has identified 66 schemes used by the industry's
major players. It found that two companies, Sintra and DJL, hold a
monopoly position in the asphalt sector. There is also a monopoly for
light fixtures and highway lighting, because of how products are
approved. Top dollar can be charged as
all competition has been eliminated.
Duchesneau also spoke about "extras " in which two
Quebec firms, Neilson and EBC, are specialists. He spoke about links
between these companies and the financing of the Quebec Liberal Party.
He addressed the issue of the MTQ's loss of
expertise, because engineering consulting firms hire away many
engineers. He presented a list of 13 high-ranking MTQ
employees who have been hired by these private firms. These engineering
firms prepare 100 per cent of the estimates for road infrastructure
contracts in Montreal and 95 per cent of the estimates in the rest of
Duchesneau spoke of "dirty money that finances
elections." His contentions are based on interviews with 13 people who
approached him after he testified before a Parliamentary hearing in
October 2011, which are written up in a second 50-page report he
submitted to the Commission.
According to Duchesneau, it's not just the entrepreneurs
and engineering firms that solicit the political apparatus for
contracts. The reverse is also true. "Political party organizers would
make orders from engineering firms to get money," he said. "There are
central bankers, people who never appear on the scenes,
but who are there to influence a world of mandatory contributions."
He also stated that professional firms finance "turnkey"
municipal elections. A turnkey election is where a
communications firm offers its organization and marketing services to a
candidate or a political party "free of charge," in return for
in the form of contracts after the election. Likewise, political
parties demand contributions from businesses in exchange for public
contracts at the municipal level.
During his cross-examination, government lawyer
Benoît Boucher inquired exclusively about Duchesneau's hiring and
working conditions at the UAC. Duchesneau said he was there to discuss
matters of corruption and not his working conditions. The tenor of the
cross-examination was such that Justice Charbonneau
had to caution other lawyers that she would "not allow the
cross-examination to be this aggressive."
Duchesneau's cross-examination by the government lawyer
ended abruptly as he was neither questioned about the contents of his
report nor on the charts filed with the Charbonneau Commission.
Duchesneau also faced intense questioning from Estelle
Tremblay, the Parti Québécois' lawyer at the Commission.
She specifically attacked his credibility based on the second report,
which he authored following his removal as head of the UAC at the
end of October 2011. She sought to gain access to the
report and sow doubt as to his credibility, the implication
being that none of his reports are credible.
"I am of the opinion that this voluntary report from Mr.
Duchesneau damages his credibility as the head of a public body," said
Tremblay. "Mr. Duchesneau, without any authorization, improvised as an
investigator, compiled files on others, and in doing so compromised his
impartiality as a representative of the
state when he was leading the [anti-corruption unit]. We cannot allow
Mr. Duchesneau, as a citizen, to just put on his hat as head of the
anti-corruption unit ... to investigate his neighbours." Tremblay's
request to view the second report was refused by Charbonneau who
explained that the report will be treated like any
other information given to the Commission by a member of the public: it
will be read, analyzed, and verified and then, if warranted, it
will be entered into evidence at a later date.
All of the witnesses, except Chantal Gingras, made
recommendations to the Quebec government and the MTQ to counter
collusion and corruption.
Attempts to Intimidate and Discredit Witnesses
Beyond the revelations made in the testimonies in the
Commission's nine days of public hearings, a constant theme has
emerged: that of attempts to intimidate or discredit the
witnesses. During the hearings, the competence and credibility of the
UAC investigators in particular was attacked.
Jacques Duchesneau described a "culture of intimidation"
within Quebec's Transport Department, which he said makes sources
difficult to find and that some people clammed up and refused to speak
to UAC investigators after being "intimidated." He himself was removed
from his post not long after he leaked
his first report to the press.
Attacks have also come from the Quebec Liberal Party and
the Parti Québécois which have been actively trying to
discredit the Charbonneau Commission witnesses, all the while claiming
to be as pure as the driven snow and knowing nothing about "dirty money
that finances elections."
The Commission's work is on hiatus until September 17.
Meanwhile investigators of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC)
and the Commission continue their research. Already arrests have taken
place on the South Shore of Montreal.
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