By Martti Lahtinen
The Charbonneau Inquiry, a provincial government probe into the depths of corruption in the Quebec construction industry, has hit the pause button until Feb. 18, giving all concerned – witnesses, lawyers, media, spectators – time to get their heads around the material unearthed so far.
Madame Justice France Charbonneau has a mandate to root out the usual suspects – favouritism, kickbacks, and underground political financing – in the multibillion-dollar industry.
It is not a regular court hearing; the inquiry only scratches the surface. No witness has been formally accused, but there are a number of bruised egos from unproven allegations. More heads will roll.
Many will recall the 2004 Gomery Commission, a look-see into the ‘sponsorship scandal,’ which involved allegations of corruption within the federal government. It netted three figures – Charles Guite, Jean Brault and Jean Lafleur – who served jail time. Many believe they were merely minions swimming with the sharks.
Despite that, grounds checks such as the current Charbonneau version produce the usual nose-stretching accounts and flip-flops by politicians, bureaucrats, union officials, semi-legitimate business, and the Mafia – players of varying liability in the shady game of ‘bilk the taxpayer.’
It makes for great TV, superior to reality shows and soaps, the camera trained on reticent witnesses facing the stern admonishing of the Madame Justice in media lighting glare.
Construction boss Joe Borsellino, who seems unaware of the notion that organized crime has dug into the construction business, hit an illuminating dimmer switch last week: he couldn’t remember putting $1.8 million into a bank account until commission counsel showed him deposit slips. That prompted Charbonneau to overstep her role in nudging the reluctant contractor to provide a de-fuzzified fabrication of events.
The next day, the Globe and Mail story guffawed: ‘Construction boss pleads poor memory’ – a workmanlike no-brainer headline for any story editor in mini-mischief mode.
That pales when compared to an all-time howler involving John Gotti, an intimidating New York crime boss, in March 1986. Witnesses tended to suffer memory loss in cases involving the mobster don. The New York Daily News trumpeted ‘I Forgotti’ on the front page after a trucker assaulted by Gotti suddenly couldn’t name his attacker in court proceedings.
One might understand Borsellino’s stand on intimidation after three men beat him up in his office three years ago. Surgery to rebuild his face likely ruined his chance to become the poster boy for traumatic brain injury in a violent workplace – a Sidney Crosby knock-off in the construction garage leagues.
Crosby’s multiple concussions in the violence-tainted NHL kick-started a serious curb on head shots, which left victims with debilitating after-effects such as headaches and memory loss: post-concussion syndrome.
Those symptoms bring Borsellino to mind. His headaches have just begun, and his memory loss – voluntary or fear-induced – will likely impact on his recollection of events in front of Charbonneau. More heads will roll.
The Low Down, jumping on a unique opportunity, stands ready to knock Borsellino’s memory lapses as symptoms of ‘Post-Construction Syndrome.’