You might have read Jonathan Kay’s apology to Maclean’s in today’s National Post. He wasn’t apologizing on his own behalf; rather, the headline atop his piece apologized on the entire country’s behalf. Kay details a number of startling revelations at the Charbonneau Commission, the ongoing inquiry into corruption in the province of Quebec. He then mused about how Quebec’s problem might compare to the rest of Canada.
There is no reliable metric for measuring corruption province by province. But the disclosures at the Charbonneau Commission suggest that the culture of thick-cash-envelopes is alive and well in Quebec — in a way that has no similarly prevalent counterpart elsewhere in the country.
You might remember a Maclean’s cover story, written by Martin Patriquin in 2010, that labelled Quebec the most corrupt province in the land. Kay, for his part, thinks Patriquin’s piece actually “understated Quebec’s problems,” and he reiterated his dismay at a motion unanimously passed by the House of Commons, without debate, that expressed its “profound sadness” at the cover story.
So, given all of this, what does Kay think should happen next?
In view of the fact that testimony at the Charbonneau Commission is lending strong support to just about every word Martin Patriquin wrote two years ago, perhaps Parliament might find the time and courage to rescind its 2010 Maclean’s smackdown. It would be a merely symbolic gesture, I know. But at least it would send the message that, in the rest of Canada, at least, we care more about the quality of our governments than protecting the parochial vanities of the politicians who lead them.
Following today’s Question Period, I sought to canvass parliamentarians’ opinions about that idea. I put the question to Bloc Québécois leader Daniel Paillé, a former MP who was a sitting member when the motion passed.
“I don’t have any opinions about that,” he told me. “We have a commission here in Quebec. You don’t have other commissions in other provinces you can compare.” Paillé admitted that testimony at the Charbonneau Commission is “very bad,” but had little else to say.
Whether or not provinces require corruption inquiries to prove a lack of corruption is up for debate. As is the argument that Quebec’s explosive inquiry speaks for itself. You be the judge.
UPDATE: Patriquin responds to Kay’s column.