Recent months have seen an increasing amount of media attention to the corruption in Quebec, from the scandal surrounding the appointment of provincial judges, to the issue of Jean Charest’s $75,000 stipend from Quebec’s Liberal party, to corruption in Quebec’s construction industry.
Unfortunately, the problem of corruption in Quebec politics is nothing new. Although there have been efforts to curb corruption in the provincial government, for the most part, they have failed. The sort of corruption that has become synonymous with governance in Quebec demonstrates a clear lack of respect among many in the political class for Quebec taxpayers, and this must be met by a clear message from Quebec taxpayers that their money and their government belong to them, and both must be handled in a more serious and democratic manner.
From the abuses of government power that characterized the Duplessis regime, to the Quebec government’s cozy relationship with labour unions in the 1970s, to the sponsorship scandal, the element of corruption seems to have played a major role in Quebec politics for some time. This long-term trend suggests that the problem is firmly entrenched in the psychology of governance in Quebec.
In more recent years, two Quebec-born politicians who came to power on a platform that included fighting corruption, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien, have seen their political careers tarnished by allegations of corruption in the Schreiber and Shawinigate affairs, respectively. Although there have been numerous commissions and other government-sponsored efforts to curb the level of government corruption in the province, they have, as recent events have demonstrated, failed.
Any solution to this plaguing problem is unlikely to come from the political class; they benefit far too much from the current situation. Instead, it must come from the people; the taxpayers.
Simply put, governmental corruption is about money and the individuals in government or their parties trying to get more of it. As such, it would seem that money would be an effective tool with which to fight against the government corruption. The sort of government corruption that has occurred as of late demonstrates profound disrespect for taxpayers in Quebec, and a firm message needs to be sent that taxpayers will not stand for it.
A refusal by a significant proportion of Quebec’s population to pay all or part of their taxes would send that message in the most effective manner. Taxes generate the money that fuels corruption, and a message needs to be sent that taxpayers’ money and their government need to be handled in a more serious and democratic manner.
Taxpayer revolts have led to serious political progress in the past, and one in Quebec could be just what the province’s political system needs to finally end the over century-old prevalence of systematic corruption in government.