François Bonnardel and the danger of Gérald Tremblay syndrome

Do you remember Gérald Tremblay? Mayor of Montreal for more than a decade until 2012, Tremblay always claimed he knew nothing about the shenanigans in his own administration and his own political party.

The system was fully described at the Charbonneau commission, but that was over 8 years ago, so why not refresh your memory?

In short, a handful of engineering firms and contractors shared the contracts through rigged tenders, and could thus set prices as they pleased. In return, Union Montreal, the mayor’s party, received a 3% cash rebate. A party organizer even testified under oath that the door to the safe would not close anymore, it was so stuffed with wads of cash.

Meanwhile, Gérald Tremblay was looking elsewhere.

This good Catholic gave the impression that he had left it to others to run the real affairs of the City, while he attended to protocol duties, press conferences and other chamber of commerce dinners.

He was having fun

I do not know of anyone who seriously believes that the former mayor was driven by bad intentions. Maybe that’s why it was so tempting to laugh at his naivety. Granby Member of the National Assembly, François Bonnardel, did not hesitate to do so.

In May 2016, for example, the Liberal government was shaken by a crisis at the Ministry of Transport (MTQ). The sultry Deputy Minister Dominique Savoie (recently brought back to Health by the Legault government) lost her post in the wake of allegations of irregularities and obstacles to investigations into the awarding of MTQ contracts.

In the National Assembly, Mr. Bonnardel, then opposition MP, took the opportunity to attack Prime Minister Philippe Couillard.

“We have to conclude that he has ‘Gerald Tremblay’ syndrome and that he did not want to know,” he joked about the problems at the MTQ.

His boss François Legault, for his part, promised to do “the cleaning that is required by the Ministry of Transport”, and called Philippe Couillard a “tourist”.

From critic to minister

Five years later, in 2021, the CAQ is in power and François Bonnardel is responsible for the Ministry of Transport.

Except that the cleaning is not over at the MTQ. Far from there. This Monday, my colleague Nicolas Lachance revealed that the investigation division of the ministry has been bled dry and that there are multiple complaints of psychological harassment. In short, it is still a mess at the MTQ, and sources fear the return of collusion.

François Bonnardel refused twice rather than once this week, via his press secretary, to explain himself to our journalist who had investigated his ministry for weeks. On the other hand, he went on the airwaves of LCN to minimize our report.

Six people, really?

During the interview, he said in particular that the MTQ has six people dedicated to investigations.

Sorry, Minister. Your department does not have six people dedicated to investigations. There is only one. Four of the six positions have been vacant for over a year, and one is in the process of being staffed. It was the MTQ itself that confirmed this information to us before the holidays.

Mr. Bonnardel also claimed on air that our article did not mention the presence of the Autorité des marchés publics (AMP), which is also false. Moreover, the ten AMP investigators who are temporarily at the MTQ can evaluate the contracts awarded, but do not carry out any field investigation, as the employees of the MTQ’s investigations division did before resigning, alleging a toxic work climate.

What if Gérald Tremblay was not the only one to ignore what is happening in his own backyard?

Jean-Louis Fortin

Director of the Bureau of Investigation

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