Mayor defends controversial city contracts
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 11:17PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 16, 2012 7:38AM EDT
MONTREAL -- Urgent road repairs mean the city of Montreal will be forced to honour some controversial contracts, said Mayor Gerald Tremblay Wednesday, amid the opposition’s pleas to wash its hands of potentially dodgy dealings.
The city of Montreal is set to proceed with $30-million worth of construction projects awarded to Louisbourg SBC, a company connected to construction magnate Tony Accurso.
Accurso, 60, was arrested as recently as last week as part of a tax evasion investigation. In April, Accurso was one of 15 people arrested by the SQ permanent anti-corruption squad.
In January, Construction Louisbourg and Simard-Beaudry Construction, part of his $1.2 billion business empire, had their licences suspended after both were found guilty of tax fraud.
Subsidiaries of those firms have continued to operate unhindered.
Tremblay stands by the decision to hire Accurso-linked companies.
“Because someone has been arrested, someone has been accused, not found guilty, I cannot say I'm not going to give him a contract, because I'm going to be sued,” said Tremblay.
Tremblay also said if a major road repairs don’t get underway shortly, Montreal citizens would pay the price.
That means, for example, that water main repairs near the Royal Victoria Hospital will be handled by Louisbourg SBC in the fall.
“Am I going to penalize Montrealers for 300 projects? A 150-kilometre (project), worth $252 million dollars?” said Tremblay.
The city of Montreal will, however, cancel four Louisbourg contracts because the bids were higher than the city's estimates, and because the city said those projects are not urgent.
It also announced Wednesday it would cancel any calls for tender when the lowest bid is more than 15 per cent above what the city has estimated.
Members of the opposition parties at City Hall are not impressed with the Louisbourg SBC dealings, saying they will vote against awarding the 13 contracts when the issue is raised in city council next week.
“If you are Tony Accurso, if you are sued, if you are under accusation, as he is, I don't think he has any right to have a public access,” said Real Menard, borough mayor of Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, anda member of Vision Montreal. “We are ready to defend that.”
Francois Croteau, Projet Montreal’s borough mayor of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, agrees.
“The allegation of the collusion and the corruption is too important and we have a moral role to play. For that, we have to cancel the contract,” he said.
Mayor Tremblay agreed that more needs to be done to crack down on below-board businesses, but deferred the issue to the province, saying the Quebec Liberals have pledged to tighten up loopholes in anti-corruption laws.
He said he wants to know where the Coalition Avenir Quebec and the Parti Quebecois stand.
“I'm saying to the political parties - help us. In other words, make a commitment now. Everybody's been talking about these allegations of collusion and corruption. What is your commitment if you're elected?” he said.