MONTREAL—According to testimony at the Charbonneau Commission on Thursday, the City of Montreal may have overpaid for sub-par sewer pipes for decades, even though a Montreal-based company supplies cities across Canada with quality pipes.

Michel Cadotte spent 38 years selling PVC underground pipes for a St-Laurent-based company called Ipex. Virtually every town in Quebec and the rest of Canada buys his pipes except Montreal, which prefers the older technology of cast-iron pipes.

Montreal’s pipes are made by a company called Canada-Pipe, ironically manufactured in Alabama.

In 2006, Cadotte paid a visit to a city construction site to check out what the city was using.

“The pipes they were about to install did not have any certifications,” Cadotte told Quebec’s anti-corruption inquiry.

Without certification, the pipes should not have been used. Furious, Cadotte got in touch with the city, which opened an investigation.

The businessman soon got a call back, but not from the city. Contractor Paolo Catania called Cadotte and invited him over to talk pipe business before introducing him to Nick Milioto, a contractor with Mafia ties. Milioto showed interest and convinced the city to use the Montreal-made PVC pipes because they were better than the cast-iron ones. Ipex was finally in business with the city.

The sudden change of heart was great news for Ipex, who soon began stocking up on PVC pipes.

“We got together to get orders out, to make sure we'd have enough stocks,” said Cadotte.

However, when Milioto's company took delivery of the first order, the contractor had a special request.

“Milioto said I'd have to give him $150,000 in cash,” said Cadotte. Milioto said he needed $150,000 in cash to thank those at city hall who agreed to use his pipes. Ipex refused to pay and that was the end of it.

Right after Cadotte refused to pay the bribe, city engineers suddenly decided to reassess Ipex’s PVC pipes. And just like that, the city decided that cast-iron pipes, known to rust quickly, would once again remain the norm for Montreal, a situation which remains to this day.

Cadotte will resume his testimony on Monday.

On Thursday morning, the owner of Excavation Panthere faced cross-examination Thursday morning at the commission.

This week the construction company owner has said that he tried to work honestly, but struggled throughout his career against cartels and collusion.

Andre Durocher said he was frequently subject to threats and intimidation not only when he won bids, but sometimes even just when he inquired about a tender.

Durocher said he was also upset about being black-listed by the ministry of Transportation in 2010. That came about as a result of work his company did on culverts, when supervisors said his crews did not have the experience necessary to do the work required and as a result were not very efficient.

Under cross-examination he confirmed, as Lino Zambito testified several weeks ago, that he tried to set up his own group of 'honest' contractors to compete against the colluding construction companies, but failed miserably.

To this day, Durocher said collusion is still in place, because few contractors ever get caught.

"You steal $100 from a depanneur and you get a year in jail. The guy who stole $10 million is still walking free. Big difference," said Durocher.

He thanked the commission for its work, but said it had come too late. Durocher said the system of collusion and favouritism cost him a business his family spent decades building.

Excavation Panthere filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.