A Montreal street isn't a Montreal street without a giant fucking hole in it.
At rush-hour Monday morning after one of the busiest weekends of the year in Montreal with the Pride parade, Osheaga, and the Rogers Cup all happening, a construction worker was rolling down Montreal’s famous Saint-Catherine street in his truck when the road collapsed beneath him into an 8-metre long, 5-metre-wide, and 3-metre deep sinkhole. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but count on the fix-up taking a really, really long time. I mean, it took them over 30 hours to get the damn truck out of the hole.
Montreal is pretty much crumbling and all politicians are saying is that there are too many infrastructure issues to prevent everything. But in this case, the city actually knew that a sewer probably burst when the owner of the pool hall across the street called them repeatedly over the past week to complain about stinky water pouring through his bar’s underground walls, but they didn’t listen.
But this can’t be a surprise to anyone living in Montreal judging by the number of construction debacles that come up so often in this city.
Take for example, the 3-tonne steel plate that fell from a construction site and killed a 32-year-old language teacher on Monday morning or the 15-meter concrete slab that fell from a highway overpass in 2011. This isn’t even the first sinkhole in a while, as two more appeared in downtown streets in May and June of last year.
During his stand-up routine at July’s Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers joked that every time he comes to Montreal the amount of scaffolding and construction makes it look more like Europe after World War II.
Sure, Montreal is pretty old and needs a lot of fixing, but the Charbonneau Commission—an investigation into the province’s dealings with corruption—has finally proven that construction and engineering firms have been bribing government officials for decades to win contracts despite doing a more than shoddy job. They also have been known to take longer to complete jobs because they know the government will keep hiring them back.
And it’s not just a few odd companies I’m talking about here. Earlier in the summer during pothole season, Montreal wanted to hire seven asphalt companies to fill the potholes—the only problem was every single company was being accused under the Charbonneau Commission. So the mayor—who ironically resigned due to corruption allegations against him—cockily asked Montrealers whether they should hire the corrupt companies who were accused of skimping on asphalt quality in the first place or leave the potholes the way they are. The people said they’d rather have the potholes, but the city didn’t listen and hired them anyway.
In its first year of a three year investigation, the Charbonneau Commission has heard hundreds of hours of testimony which led to such Boardwalk Empire-esque scandals as the resignation of two consecutive Montreal mayors, the forced trusteeship of Laval’s entire city council, video evidence of mobsters stuffing their socks with cash, and the presence of a Ziplock bag filled with $122,800 of illicit moolah given to a former city engineer.
When the Commission returns from summer break, they will take on another branch of the Quebec corruption tree when they probe the construction unions who are fresh off a summer of fun, with a two-week long strike that ended in back-to-work legislation, in addition to their annual two-week construction holiday.
Life’s good when you’re in Quebec’s construction industry, so long as you can avoid pesky anti-corruption investigators, mafia assassins, and the growing threat of death-by-sinkhole.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @JoelBalsam
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