Canada proposes new anti-corruption law

By Helen Wright31 October 2011

A new law has been proposed in the Canadian province of Quebec to give authorities more powers to tackle corruption in the construction industry.

Quebec's labour minister Lise Thériault introduced Bill 35 on 26 October - a proposal that would amend the current Building Act and extend more powers to the province's construction regulator, the Régie du Bâtiment.

As well as "substantially increasing" the fines that can be imposed on a contractor for illegal activity, the new law would also prohibit contractors found guilty of tax fraud or other illegal activities from bidding for public contracts for years at a time.

"The Bill that I have presented is a response to concerns repeatedly expressed by consumers, particularly by new home buyers," Ms Thériault said.

"The Government intends to strengthen the law and thus give it more teeth. We will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to punish contractors who commit crimes. It is totally unacceptable that fraudsters can obtain public contracts financed from the money of Quebecers," she added.

Under Bill 35, a new anti-corruption office would also be established involving up to five commissioners, known as the commissioners' office for inspection and investigation.

Bill 35 will now be debated by the Quebec National Assembly, together with another proposed law - Bill 33 - which would require more transparency from construction unions and limit their powers over job placements.

If adopted, the laws would also apply in retrospect over the last five years. Ms Thériault said she hoped the two bills would be passed by the end of the current session.

Quebec's construction corruption scandal exploded in late 2009, when the province's police force started L'Opération Marteau (Operation Hammer), an investigation into ties between organised criminal gangs and the construction industry and price collusion between contractors. As the investigation progressed, it uncovered links between corrupt politicians, contractors, unions and organised crime.

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