With the Charbonneau commission investigating the widespread problems of corruption and collusion in the construction industry, Westmount mayor Peter Trent took the microphone at Monday night’s city council to state what might be an obvious truth: Westmount is not immune.
Sur la photo, le père de la mafia italienne à Montréal, Nicolo Rizzuto, est assis au bout de la table et Francesco Catania, fondateur de Frank Catania et associés, se trouve à sa gauche. (photo: gracieuseté)
“Westmount is not in a bubble,” the Mayor said. “We are affected by what is going on in Montreal, and Boisbriand, and all across Quebec, in terms of collusion and bid-rigging. If anyone thinks that Westmount is exempt from any possibility of it, that’s living in Never-neverland.”
Trent said that Westmount faces many infrastructure problems, beginning with the streets, which are in poor shape.
“The concrete looks like it has been gnawed by rats,” he said. “The quality of the work has not been up to snuff.”
Trent said that part of the problem stems from the merger period, when capital works was cut back, and debt skyrocketed. Still, he says he cannot rule out the possibility that there may be other issues at play. “Certainly if there’s collusion, if there’s bid-rigging, it’s likely that could also lead to problems with the quality of the work,” he said.
Trent said that in Westmount, at least two companies received a large share of contracts, and described himself as “concerned.”
Increase quality control
In order to combat and prevent problems, Trent said the city plans to increase the quality control and oversight of work sites, to ensure that Westmount is not receiving substandard work.
They will also take a closer look at companies’ enterprise numbers, or NEQs, to ensure that companies are separate entities.
Trent said that Westmount is also participating in efforts by the city of Montreal. Councillor Patrick Martin is vice-president of the contract review committee, which looks at bids of over $10 million. He also supports the strengthening of Bill 35, which limits who can bid on public contracts.
“The concrete looks like it has been gnawed by rats. The quality of the work has not been up to snuff.” Peter Trent
Finally, Director General Duncan Campbell has been asked to develop a strategy to help improve the bidding process. Campbell said that, although there has not been an investigation specifically into collusion in Westmount, the city has submitted their bidding information to the city as requested, to be part of the regional investigation.
He admits that the city has limited leeway when it comes to selecting bidders for contracts, and that bid-rigging is also hard to stop.
“We can’t stop people from talking to each other,” he said. Nevertheless, Campbell intends to present his recommendations within a month.
Trent expressed his hope that the ongoing efforts by Montreal and by Westmount will be a major step towards fixing the city’s crumbling streets.
“We want to avoid the problems that seem to be happening in Montreal,” he said. “We cannot be in a bubble on our own. We’re taking action now, and we hope that in a couple of years, instead of paying a dollar for seventy cents of work, we’ll get a full dollar’s worth.”