Forget The Sopranos, The Godfather even Goodfellas. Forget guns and sleeping with the fishes.

The Montreal mob has a new weapon in their arsenal. It’s not exciting, flashy or even remotely interesting.

Quite the opposite. They now know how to bore the general public to the point where we all lose interest.

It worked on me. Then, by chance, two people I respect brought up the same thing in the same night: the Charbonneau Commission.

Wait, that’s still going on? Yes, despite a large portion of the general public (and yours truly) loosing interest after the commission claimed the political careers of longstanding mayors Gerald Tremblay and Gilles Vaillancourt.

The sacrificial lambs were thrown to the slaughter…and by slaughter I mean a pretty comfortable retirement and no need to answer any more questions. Corruption problem solved!

But the commission continued, undeterred and unnoticed. Witnesses testified, mainstream media reported on it out of duty not interest.

Yeah, a few times the commission tried to get provocative like when they asked city employee Gilles Vezina if he ever accepted the services of a prostitute as a bribe. But alas, the answer was no, the wine and hockey tickets were enough for him, and he wasn’t high profile enough to warrant pursuing the matter further.

Now, it turns out that one of the witnesses, Martin Dumont, felt pressured and asked for his testimony to be stricken. His lawyer threatened to take the matter to Quebec Superior Court if the request is refused. From there, the Supreme Court of Canada becomes an option.

Following a case up the legal food chain is hard enough to do even when it’s salacious and sexy. This is anything but.

If only it was this easy (image:

How do you make something already mired in public apathy less appealing? You bog it down in legal procedure, that’s how. Absolutely brilliant.

If it gets to the Supreme Court, everything could be thrown out. If it does, who will notice and moreover who will care? We’ve already got the big names, who cares about the rest?

But we should care. Those are our roads cracking and overpasses crumbling because of shoddy work done by those who got insider contracts and overbilled the taxpayer. Those are our elected officials and unelected bureaucrats taking bribes from the mob. Those are our streets turned into impromptu rivers that sweep McGill students away for a kayak-less ride down to Sherbrooke. This is our public inquiry that risks disappearing without anyone noticing.

What is supposed to be a battle between right and wrong, public good and corruption has turned into a fight to keep the ratings up. On one side, we have the Charbonneau Commission trying to remain relevant and sexy without any big name talent. On the other, the mob and corrupt officials are working their hardest to get this show cancelled midseason. No syndicated reruns, no DVD box sets, just done and gone.

While this analogy may have almost run its course, so has the Charbonneau Commission. Maybe we should make some sort of petition to keep this show going or at very least start paying attention.

It may seem boring, but when you think about it, bringing down the graft that has been institutionalized in Quebec since the 50s or maybe earlier is probably the sexiest most exciting story possible.

There have been a lot of stories lately about climate change and other dire warnings of a global nature, so this week I thought I’d keep things local.

Expo-67 legacy on the chopping block

If you missed it in yesterday’s Gazette, city councillor and long time QC politicion Louise Harel told the paper that Montreal’s biosphere (that giant dome thing in Parc Jean-Drapeau) could be affected by federal cuts.

A remnant of Expo-67, the biosphere is now an environmental museum run by Environment Canada. And, like its American counterpart, the Environmental Protection Agency, it has been targeted by conservatives for funding cuts. The city holds a 25-year lease—set to expire in 2016—on the land surrounding the biosphere.

Now that Environment Canada has to cut 700 jobs in Quebec, according to the Gazette, the museum’s 25 employees may be on the chopping block. As usual, Environment Canada employees did not want to comment for the article, but it seems unlikely that the museum will shutter completely given that around 150,000 people visit it each year.

More likely is that the museum will eventually move under the umbrella of the city from the federal government, or that maybe the museum will cut down its hours.

Condos are going to take over because the City needs tax dollars

Yesterday’s Gazette also featured a lengthy meditation on the problems of condo living in Montreal—with the main problem being that our view of the Olympic Stadium and the St. Lawrence will inevitably be obscured by some new project.

Despite the downturn in the real estate market in the past few years, Montreal has 36 projects on the books. The City also changed zoning laws in April, allowing for denser projects.

In April, the city of Montreal approved new zoning that would allow developers to build higher, denser buildings in certain parts of downtown. The change was approved to facilitate the conversion of empty parking lots into towers, which bring in added tax revenues to city coffers.

Since then, three other projects exceeding 35 stories have been announced for the area around the Bell Centre, including the twin-tower Roccabella, l’Avenue and the Tour des Canadiens.

Someone needs to go out and buy the city’s planning commission copies of The Death and Life of Great American Citieswhich details over 400 pages the problems with building high rise dense communities. Basically, they kill the local life around them, and often end up less integrated and less safe.

Province could take over environmental assessment, Mafia likely happy

The centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party told Global Montreal that all things environment should be handled by the province, not by the federal government. Francois Legault initially said he wanted provincial power over all “federal powers and functions in environmental matters,” though the party has since side stepped to “obtain all powers over environmental impact studies” and then aim for more.

In theory, this may not be a bad idea given the current government’s love of the environment.

But let us not forget that in Quebec, decisions concerning “city planning,” “construction,” and the “environmental assessment of projects” aren’t always made with the province’s best interest in mind, but rather those of developers, who more often than not seem to have some sort of tie to organized crime or engage in other shady dealings at City Hall.

Think that sounds like paranoia? A recent poll in the Globe and Mail stated the majority of Quebeckers feel their government is corrupt. (My feelings are it doesn’t just stop with the party in power, there are way too many institutions and relationships in place to clean up with one election.)

*Photo by Idjaffe via Flickr (under a Creative Commons license)