Saturday, October 31, 2009

The National Tax Revisited

I pondered months ago the source of the nationalist tax in Quebec. I speculated about why taxes are higher in Quebec than in any other part of North America yet the quality of public services are lower than most/all.  I suggested that this paradox could be explained by the money spent on nationalist efforts (language police, pseudo-embassies, etc), by the ties between unions and a certain party, and/or by the lack of accountability in the political system due to the dominance of the nationalist issue in any election. 

In the past week or two, we have a new contender, perhaps just a bit related to the ones I already mentioned, CORRUPTION.  A spate of stories have documented some very troubling dynamics--that the costs of construction are something like 35%-50% higher here than elsewhere in Canada because of collusion amongst the corruption companies and their ties to all of the major parties.  In today's Montreal Gazette, a story posits that every party has a bagman and then documents a variety of ways in which a supposedly transparent contracting process can be gamed. 

This all is coming out during a municipal election--a competitive one.  So, the good news is that the electoral process is causing some disclosure about on-going practices that undermine the quality of public service.  The bad news.... well, there is much bad news:
  1. The primary challenger, Louise Harel, had to dump her key ally because he was directly implicated in some of the shenanigans.  This limits her appeal as a reform candidate who clean house, which was already damaged by her past--as a separatist and as the person who led the forcible merger of the cities on the island of Montrea into one mega-city.  This merger probably made corruption worse by increasing the size of the contacts and reducing the number of decision-makers.
  2. The incumbent, Gerald Tremblay, has basically claimed that he knew nothing about the various shenanigans, but will be able to do something about it now.  Something like "I was oblivious before but trust me now."  Sure.
  3. The secondary challenger, Richard Bergeron, has not been taken seriously until the two other candidates started to self-destruct.  
  4. And turnout is expected to be light, as people care more about the provincial elections.  Last night, I caught a series of ads on TV that sought to increase turnout by pointing out that municipalities are responsible for trash and recycling and other such stuff.

 A bit of French is appropriate here: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Said by many, including apparently Snake Pliskin in Escape from LA.

No comments: