18 April 2012


This week in Québec, there were some police raids that resulted in the arrest of a number of municipal officials and construction industry types, alleging irregularities in the tendering process that gave some companies advantages in competitions and some politicians benefits of their own. And we all predictably cluck our tongues and shake our heads in disapproval, if not disbelief.

Where does that kind of corruption come from? Well, we have probably all seen it up close and not identified it as such.

I can think of a number of times where the owner/clerk at the dépanneur (convenience store for the uninitiated) rings up the purchases and sub-totals, but the drawer is open and the total never happens. I have been known to ask for a receipt in such cases, making them count the few dollars I'm spending as revenue at least.

How about a restaurant proposing a cash price without taxes or a credit/debit card price with? Sorry, I need a receipt for that too. And on this point the dishonesty of some has cost every restaurant owner, as there is now an obligatory receipt-producing machine that every owner had to shell out for to ensure that each transaction is reported. Of course, that works best when you actually ring up the transaction, and I have seen exceptions there already, too.

It isn't just that sometimes there are people pretending to collect taxes (so I'm paying as a customer) and not remitting them to the government (so I'm losing as a taxpayer and a citizen). I happen to believe in the role of the state to provide certain services to us all, so I don't want to cheat us all out of those benefits, or give our increasingly conservative governments any excuse to cut those services or impose extra user fees every time we turn around.
This is why I am particularly happy with the new campaign the Québec government has come out with. The tone is just right, the message reminding us what the taxes pay for.

And if we think that anti-corruption is something to be left to a commission of inquiry or a special police operation, we need to reflect on where that culture of corruption comes from and refuse to play any part in it, however small. Our government-provided services depend on it.

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