The mayor of Montreal will not award any new contracts for the time being, putting roughly $75 million worth of contracts on hold, city officials said Wednesday.

“Road infrastructure, sewers and mains, aqueducts,” are on hold, said Executive Committee Vice-Chairman Richard Deschamps following a closed-door meeting with Mayor Gerald Tremblay and his Executive Council Wednesday morning to debate the current and future city contracts.

The decision comes during damning testimony at the Charbonneau commission this week that implicates collusion and corruption in how city contracts are awarded.

Infrabec owner Lino Zambito has testified that he routinely had to pay bureaucrats who worked for the city of Montreal in order to win contracts, and was often forced to choose more expensive alternatives.

"I have a duty to protect the interests of taxpayers," Tremblay said.

The mayor has come under heavy criticism for his handling of corruption scandals over the years. Several former members of his inner circle have been slapped with criminal charges -- although Tremblay has persistently said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Deschamps insists, though, that the reason for the work stoppage is to provide Premier Pauline Marois with a chance to look into the anti-corruption law, Bill 35.

“We offer this opportunity to the new government to straighten the law,” he said.

Deschamps added that the city won’t halt necessary work.

“We won't paralyze the city during that time,” he said. “If we have emergencies, if we have a danger for the security of people, we will act.”

The city administration now wants the provincial government to amend contracting laws to allow it to refuse work to the lowest bidder, if that bidder has been associated with corruption.

It said the provincial law introduced by the previous Liberal government does not do enough to exclude certain parties. In the statement, it said the new provincial government had indicated that the legislative change would be made by Christmas.
Opposition parties both said they think it’s wise to halt new work contracts.

“Finally, Mr. Tremblay did something,” said Project Montreal leader Richard Bergeron. “It's a good decision to suspend these contracts.”

Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel agreed.

“The Charbonneau commission has revealed so many bad things,” she said.

The corruption allegations have led to numerous calls for Tremblay's resignation, though the mayor is adamant he won’t leave office.

Tremblay instead said he would be happy to testify at the Charbonneau commission if he was called to do so, saying he feels both sides of the story are not being told.

That did not stop citizens from confronting the mayor at Tuesday's Ville Marie borough meeting.

One man told the mayor his activities were "indecent," adding, "It's irresponsible. We do not want this in our city."

That man went on to demand Tremblay step down as "the only legitimate thing you can do."

His opponents are also demanding his resignation. While the provincial government hasn't gone quite that far, it hasn't stuck up for the mayor either.

"I think he has, in his mind, to make his own decision," said Minister for Montreal Jean-Francois Lisee.

Tremblay reiterated that he would not resign.

With a report from The Canadian Press