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Local politicians upset with construction contracts

WATCH ABOVE: Montreal’s demerged cities are frustrated with the way the city is handling the construction on Peel Street. Global’s Tim Sargeant reports.

MONTREAL – Despite recent changes to the way public works contracts are being awarded, many local politicians are insisting more changes are needed.

Montreal city councillor Justine McIntyre argues there are still not enough qualified construction firms that are able to bid on contracts.

McIntyre, who represents the Bois-de-Liesse district of Pierrefonds said the lack of firms means the same companies are constantly being awarded contracts, thus limiting the pool from which cities can choose.

On top of it, she said business owners – particularly on Peel Street where construction is two weeks behind schedule – are the biggest losers in the roadwork debacle.

“I think [construction workers] not being there all day is particularly frustrating for the people that are downtown,” she told Global News.
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Crews repairing the infrastructure on Peel Street have frequently been ending their day at 4 p.m., even though their contract calls for 12 hour days from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We should be holding contractors to respect the terms of the agreement,” said McIntyre.

“That’s it. Pointe finale.”

Westmount mayor Peter Trent made a similar case, adding the provincial law that forces cities to award contracts to the lowest bidder does not mean cities are getting the best bang for their buck.

“We need more freedom as to how we give construction contracts,” he said.

The $4 million contract on Peel Street is being paid mostly by Montreal taxpayers, but the suburban cities and towns on the island are being billed for several hundreds of thousands of dollars, regardless of whether the job is delivered on time or not.

Trent also said the government-mandated construction holiday doesn’t help because firms can’t draw on other workers that may normally be available, but are on vacation.

“It’s hard to get people to work because all their friends are on the beach,” he said.

“So, that’s one the fundamental problems we have. We should get rid of the construction holidays.”

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Trent argued this, plus reducing the influence of unions and enforcing work schedules are all needed to hold contractors more accountable and help guarantee more jobs in the sector.