MONTREAL – The City of Montreal is at risk of running out of asphalt to fill its potholes by April 15 unless it can sign a $5.2-million contract with seven supply companies, including some who have been named at the Charbonneau Commission into corruption in the construction agency, the mayor’s office revealed Monday.
Calling it a Catch-22 situation, Mayor Michael Applebaum said the city’s executive committee voted at a special meeting Monday morning to accord the contract to the seven companies despite allegations of improper dealings mentioned in connection with at least three of the companies at the Charbonneau Commission: Construction Louisbourg, Pavage Montreal Nord and DGL Construction. Construction Louisbourg and its owner Tony Accurso were linked to Vito Rizzuto, reputed head of the Montreal mafia during the hearings, charges he denied. Accurso was arrested on charges of fraud and corruption by the provincial anti-corruption squad UPAC in June, and found Louisbourg was found guilty of tax evasion by Revenue Canada in 2010.
“The issue seems simple – give a contract for providing asphalt,” Applebaum said. “But if we say yes, the public will criticize us. And if we say no, we can’t fill the potholes.”
Montreal’s city council will debate the issue in a special plenary session Monday, with the executive committee recommending it vote to go ahead with the contract. If council votes in favour, the city will ask the Quebec government to adopt a special decree to accept the contract, then forward it to the provincial financial oversight body the Autorité des marchés financieres (AMF) to analyze the companies and declare whether or not they are “clean” to provide the contracts.
Under provincial Law 1, the city can forward the names of bidders in any contract worth more than $100,000 to be analyzed by the AMF and UPAC to be considered applicable to fulfill the contracts. Of 50 contracts the city has forwarded to the AMF since December, not one has been approved so far, executive committee chairman Laurent Blanchard confirmed yesterday.
The city would ask the organizations to fast track the process to push the asphalt contract through by April 15, Applebaum said. The asphalt supply contract was not among the 50 previously sent because those were more concerned with infrastructure work and construction as opposed to supply, the mayor’s office said. If any of the companies are found to have been operating outside the law they will be removed from the contract, Applebaum said. To refuse some of the companies now could expose the city to lawsuits and threaten the supply of asphalt.
The seven companies who would provide the asphalt were chosen because of their bid price, expertise in making asphalt suitable for warm temperature conditions, and their proximity to neighbourhoods requiring repair, since fresh asphalt has a limited lifespan. The contract was openend for bids by the city on Jan. 7.
The plenary session was set to start at 3:30 p.m.