05/05/2013 06:29 EDT | Updated 07/05/2013 05:12 EDT

House essay: Recipes for corruption abound

Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio's The House, reflects on corruption and its threat to democracy in his weekly radio essay as heard on May 4, 2013.

Welcome to Chez Charbonneau, the commission where they serve up the finest buffet of wrongdoing, influence peddling, bribery and corruption allegations in all of Quebec.

And this week, more gravy was poured on the plate of payola poutine by a man named Gilles Cloutier.

Cloutier is a special witness at this commission, that’s already heard all sorts of serious allegations.

Think of Cloutier as a five-star chef of election cooking and now he’s ready to reveal his secret recipes, like this one:

He alleges a Quebec Superior Court judge once committed fraud.

What’s that recipe?

Cloutier claims Michel Déziel, once gave him $30,000 cash "in a white envelope" to help win an election.

Cloutier says 40 people were supposed to "donate" $750 to a candidate but that they would then be reimbursed for the money and the winning candidate would give an engineering firm a contract.

I think the technical term here is cooking the books. But Chef Cloutier cooked up so many schemes and he admitted to them all — rigging up to 60 elections, he said.

But if all that doesn’t put you off your democratic dinner, reserve a table at Chez Elections Canada.

A report released this week commissioned by Elections Canada found there were 165,000 serious errors in the last federal election.

That averages out to over 500 errors in every one of Canada’s 308 ridings.

The chief electoral officer said that shakes the faith in the entire electoral system.

And then there was the auditor-general of Canada reporting that there is $29 billion dollars in unpaid taxes in Canada.

The federal deficit is only $15 billion.

What is going on here? Corruption? Tax cheats?

You might think Canada is rotting at the core, but hang on, Europe apparently is worse.

In a startling speech back in January, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland claimed the biggest crisis affecting the EU is not the financial crisis but actually corruption.

“According to the EU Commission’s data almost three-quarters of EU citizens perceive corruption as a major problem in their country,” Jagland said.

He goes on to outline a series of stunning corruption scandals, all Charbonneau-like in their scope, in countries from Finland to Slovenia.

What's the recipe to stop this?

According to Jaglan, you need three things:

First, an independent judicial system. Here in Canada, check!

Second, a free press. Here in Canada, check!

Third, he says you need citizens who care. Citizens who care enough to demand answers.

And that’s the one ingredient that people like the self-confessed election cooker Gilles Cloutier count on as missing.

Well Chef — with the Charbonneau Commission, not any more.