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$4.2 billion for Quebec highways


February 24, 2010
By Montréal Gazette

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NEWS HIGHLIGHT

$ 4.2 billion for Quebec highways
In announcing $ 4.2 billion in new projects this year to fix Quebec's battered highway network, Transport Minister Julie Boulet also named Jacques Duchesneau to prop up her government's battered reputation.

Feb. 25, 2010 – The Gazette
report added that “Duchesneau, a former director of the Montreal police, will head a new
anti-collusion unit in the transport department, targeting collusion and bid
rigging by contractors.

As well, Duchesneau
will look into cases of fraud and embezzlement in the construction industry.

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His goal is
that "everyone have a chance to bid on contracts."

The Charest
government has used its majority in the National Assembly to fend off calls for
a public inquiry into construction corruption. There have been allegations Quebec taxpayers are
paying a premium as high as 35 per cent on construction contracts because of
collusion.

Boulet said
preliminary findings show Quebec's
road-building costs are comparable with those in Ontario
and New Brunswick.

Opposition
politicians, mayors and unions representing engineers, police officers and
crown prosecutors have also called for a public inquiry, saying there is a
system of corruption that police work will not uncover.

Duchesneau,
who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Montreal
in 1998 on an anti-corruption platform, himself called for a public inquiry
into the construction industry last November.

Asked if he
still wants a public inquiry, Duchesneau said yesterday that he does, because
police work, which is what the Charest government has proposed as an
alternative to an inquiry, is not enough.

"What we
are announcing today is looking forward," he said. "That's what
interests me."

He said he
has spoken with Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis and the Sûreté du
Québec, and plans to work with them to prevent collusion.

He will also
work with engineers and economists, trying to detect signs of irregularities.

Boulet said
it was too early to say how the anti-collusion unit will work, but said it
would co-operate with Operation Hammer, a police task force set up in October
to investigate the allegations.

Duchesneau
said the $4.2 billion Boulet has budgeted for roads and infrastructure projects
will be attractive to organized crime.

"They
have long arms," he said. "It's a temptation."

Duchesneau
said he would ensure that "every dollar spent will be well spent."

Norman
MacMillan, the junior transport minister, said naming Duchesneau was not a way
to avoid the corruption allegations. The idea is to ensure that the $4.2
billion is "well-spent."

"I'm not
saying in the past it was not well spent," MacMillan added, leading one
reporter to ask: "So you're saying that what never happened won't happen
again?"

Another
reporter pointed to allegations that grateful construction contractors
contribute to Liberal coffers, suggesting the Charest Liberals practise
"pork-barrel politics."

"It's
not my fault," MacMillan said, denying a connection between the contracts
and contributions to the Liberal Party.

Bertrand
Saint-Arnaud, the Parti Québécois public security critic, said naming
Duchesneau was the latest bid by the government to avoid a public inquiry.
"It's a total lack of respect for Quebecers who want to know what these
multiple revelations in the construction world are about," Saint-Arnaud
said.”

In a separate
article, the Gazette reported that $508 million has been earmarked for projects
on Montreal Island for work on Autoroutes 20, 40 and
720, as well as the Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine tunnel and reconstruction of the
Turcot interchange, slated for demolition.

Boulet said
plans to rebuild Notre Dame St.
in the city's east end are back on hold, because the projected cost has risen
to almost $1.5 billion.

Turcot
reconstruction: $96.2 million

Dorval interchange autoroutes 20, 520: $65.6 million ($33
million from federal government, city of Montreal
and Aéroports de Montréal)

Autoroute 25,
from Henri Bourassa Blvd.
to Autoroute 40: $130 million

Anjou interchange,
autoroutes 25 and 40: $20.75 million

Querbes
overpass of Autoroute 40: $3.6 million

Autoroute 40
at St. Jean Baptiste Blvd.:
$16.3 million

Autoroute 40,
Charles de Gaulle bridge: $14 million

Autoroute
720, east of Bleury St.:
$14.2 million ($5.1 million from Ottawa)

Pont Viau reconstruction:
$26 million


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