Canadian Consulting Engineer

Upset In Quebec Construction Industry

Quebec's construction industry became embroiled in scandal in October following reports that a group of contractors was rigging the bidding process to take turns in winning work in Montreal. Reports said that the contractors would use...

December 1, 2009   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Quebec’s construction industry became embroiled in scandal in October following reports that a group of contractors was rigging the bidding process to take turns in winning work in Montreal. Reports said that the contractors would use fictitious golf games as a code to set the top bidding prices. There were also reports that organized crime groups were involved in the masonry industry.

The Quebec government resisted calls for a public inquiry, but on October 22 announced the creation of a 60-person special anti-corruption police squad. The force would have the right to do background checks on all the owners and shareholders of the province’s 30,000 construction contractors. There would also be a “snitch line.”

Consulting engineers were caught in the sidelines of the fray when on November 4, Louise Harel, leader of the official opposition party on Montreal city council, criticized the city for consistently using consulting firms and the private sector rather than relying on its own internal expertise.

Meanwhile, the Association of Consulting Engineers of Quebec (AICQ) responded to an article in Le Devoir in late October that suggested there was collusion between AICQ member firms and the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ).

In an open letter response published in Le Devoir October 28, AICQ president Johanne Desrochers strongly objected to points made in the newspaper’s article. She explained that MTQ-AICQ meetings had been specifically established to be open and transparent. “The consultative committee between the MTQ and our association is not formed of a ‘club of privileged firms of consulting engineers,’ but of all members of the Transport Committee of our association. This committee is open to all member firms, large, medium and small, involved in the transport sector.”

Ms. Desrochers said the meetings were held to discuss general approaches and solve mutual issues, not to discuss any specific projects or plans. She also pointed out that the ministry and the association had been meeting for 15 years, not since 2004 as Le Devoir suggested. 

The reason that the value of contracts going to consulting engineers had risen so sharply between 2005-2008, Ms. Desrochers explained, was simply because the value of infrastructure spending by the Ministry during that time had risen from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion.

The full text of the AICQ Communiqué is published at www.canadianconsultingengineer.com, Headline News, November 20.


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