$4M bought Hydro-Quebec peace at Peribonka site
Published Monday, February 17, 2014 10:03AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 17, 2014 7:14PM EST
Taxpayers shelled out $4 million so Hydro-Quebec could buy peace and avoid intimidation, the Charbonneau Commission heard Monday.
The pricetag is linked to construction on the Peribonka Hydro Project, a major dam project that took place between 2004 and 2008.
According to testimony heard at the corruption inquiry Monday, Hydro-Quebec agreed to pick up the tab to hire Quebec workers who weren't really needed for the job, no questions asked.
The Peribonka hydroelectric dam was a success story for Hydro-Quebec, who built the 400-megawatt-generating plant in just four years.
Project manager Jacques Ste-Marie told the commission the project came at a huge cost.
“It was chaotic at best,” said Ste-Marie, who worked in partnership with German contractor Bauer.
Ste-Marie worked for Bauer Canada, a subdivision of the company that brought in specialized crane operators to work on the construction of the dam in a difficult location.
Previous witnesses have told the Charbonneau Commission that employees belonging to the Quebec Federation of Labour union were very disruptive and created all sorts of delays because they objected to specialized workers being brought in from overseas.
“Even the language issue came up, because the contractor hired foreign workers, who didn't speak French,” he said.
“Their common language was English,” and it didn't sit well with the Saguenay workers, already angry that foreigners were doing work they felt was theirs, he testified.
Last week, an investigator revealed that Bauer bought the peace by hiring unionized Quebec workers, including 12 crane operators, to do absolutely nothing. The company is now seeking to downplay that fact.
“Everyone was working,” said Ste-Marie, while conceding the same work could have been done with fewer workers.
A report tabled at the commission, however, clearly proved Hydro-Quebec authorized at least $4 million dollars in useless salaries.
Hydro Quebec described the amount last week as a "negligible amount."
Jacques Ste-Marie was a senior engineer with Bauer Canada and oversaw the construction of the Peribonka hydroelectric dam (Feb. 17, 2014)