Charbonneau: Construction owners say they were threatened, harassed
Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012 10:32AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 20, 2012 9:40PM EST
A contractor from the lower Laurentians testified Tuesday at the Charbonneau Commission about the price he said he paid for refusing to give in to corruption and collusion.
Physical violence and death threats were common against contractors who refused to toe the line, said Andre Durocher, who ran his small excavation company, Panthere, with his family.
Durocher said he understood there were times when he wasn't supposed to bid for contracts.
“It's a closed circle controlled by contractors,” he said.
Durocher tried to portray himself as a man who stood up to collusion on the North Shore, a move that cost him business.
“I was despised on the North Shore for destroying collusion. I'm not shy about it,” he testified.
The competition wanted him out, he claims, adding that he was pressured to back out of a contract in Lachute by an engineering firm.
“I was told I was not welcome, and was told my life would be made miserable,” he told the commission.
Durocher said the situation deteriorated when the Transports Quebec ordered contractors to work with specific engineering firms, many of which had their own preferred contractors.
He said his equipment was routinely vandalized and threats were common.
His partner and brother Denis paid a heavy price for bidding on one contract, Durocher testified.
“He was punched in the face with an iron fist. They broke three bones in his face,” he said.
Eventually pressure from competitors forced durocher's company into bankruptcy.
Another contractor who was an admitted minor player in Montreal's construction industry also told the Charbonneau Commission he was routinely harassed and intimidated by other people in the industry.
Michel Leclerc, the owner of Terramex construction, testified that he has encountered corruption since 1997.
He said paying off the mob and a cartel of other construction companies was an unfortunate price of doing business in Montreal, and that several times he won a contract, only to be strong-armed into giving it up.
For all his troubles, Leclerc never got a big piece of the contract pie in Montreal.
"I never received anything but crumbs," said Leclerc on Tuesday.
The nervous-looking Leclerc was granted the right to have his picture and voice repressed from media reports due to health reasons.
Leclerc also said during his testimony that he and his partner approached Montreal's Auditor General Jacques Bergeron twice to make complaints about collusion.
The first time Leclerc was told that investigators would look into the matter, but when Leclerc did not see any concrete results they made a second complaint.
Bergeron was once spotted on a construction site, but soon after the second complaint the SQ anti-corruption Operation Hammer came into being and started making multiple arrests.
Several people, including former construction company owner Lino Zambito, said the knowledge of an open police investigation and the subsequent arrests put a chill on collusion within the industry.