A major breakthrough took place Wednesday at the Charbonneau Commission, when an engineering firm president testified that there was a well-organized system of bid rigging over City of Montreal contracts.

Michel Lalonde, president of Genius – formerly Groupe Seguin – explained that through the system, companies bidding on city contracts had to pay a 3 per cent kickback to Union Montreal, the party led by former mayor Gerald Tremblay.

Lalonde explained that his company once financed Vision Montreal and Tremblay’s predecessor Pierre Bourque, but when Tremblay and Union Montreal took power at city hall, Lalonde approached the party in an effort to lobby for contracts.

He said he was introduced to Bernard Trepanier, Tremblay's former fundraiser, who told him the party needed money for the next electoral campaign, adding that Lalonde could position himself by helping the party out financially. 

Lalonde said he was given precise numbers.

At the time, Trepanier asked me, in 2004, for $100,000.He said some firms will be asked for $100,000, and the bigger ones, $200,000. There will be others, but it's to prepare for the 2005 election,” he said.

After 2005, Trepanier changed the rules, said Lalonde. Lalonde said he was told at that point that instead of giving us donations, you will give us a 3 per cent kickback on all the city contracts you receive. 

Lalonde testified that his engineering company received many contracts as part of that deal.

Lalonde also admitted it was common for engineering firms and contractors to overcharge the city by up to 30 per cent on contracts – and contractors and engineers would split the extra profits.

“It allowed us, when the contractor was getting our support, to receive 25 per cent of these amounts in cash,” he said.

Dumont issue settled

On another issue, the Charbonneau Commission agreed to settle its procedural war against witness Martin Dumont, accused of fabricating part of his testimony last fall. His allegations were part of what led to the downfall of former mayor Tremblay.

Dumont's lawyer Suzanne Gagné convinced the commission to remove a videotaped confession of the former political organizer in which he incriminates himself.

“The commission will not take into consideration this declaration and will have to appreciate the credibility with the evidence it has,” said Gagné

Dumont could still be charged with perjury for lying to the commission.