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Bill 62 “legalizes” the ferment of collusion, according to an expert

Photo: Christine Muschi The Canadian Press For the 2022-2023 financial year, the total value of infrastructure contracts awarded by the government amounted to $9.8 billion.

Isabelle Porter in Quebec

Published at 0:00

  • Quebec

Minister Jonatan Julien's Bill 62 on infrastructure contracts and the relaxation of calls for tenders in some way legalizes collusion, according to law professor at the University of Montreal Martine Valois.

“It’s as if we said to ourselves: “They forgot. The Charbonneau commission is over, it's been 10 years,” laments the lawyer, who sat on the public committee monitoring the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the awarding and management of public contracts in industry construction.

Ms. Valois is sounding the alarm about the new “partnership contracts” that the government wants to establish through this bill, which aims to give public bodies “more agility in carrying out their infrastructure projects.”

“Partnership contracts” would replace the competitive bidding system for certain more complex or larger projects. They would allow interested companies to participate in the design of the project itself.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Jonatan Julien, sees this as a way to gain efficiency and therefore reduce costs. costs. The industry claims that it could make suggestions in advance to the government to avoid imposing unnecessarily costly requirements.

Lack of government expertise

“Every dollar we invest in our infrastructure must give as much back as possible. And to optimize efficiency, we must make changes,” declared Minister Julien on Tuesday, who said he had the ambition to carry out projects 25% faster for 15% less money.

However, according to Ms. Valois, one of the problems at the heart of the Charbonneau commission is precisely that engineers and entrepreneurs “decided what was going to be in the calls for 'offers, without control.'

This is what made him say “that we are going to legalize a situation which favored collusion between entrepreneurial firms and caused price increases.” “We’re going to legalize it. So, we cannot say that it is collusion. We will call these “partnership contracts”. »

She adds that the government's lack of engineering expertise, which was denounced at the time of the commission, remains and puts the government at risk of letting itself eat the wool off its back. Public bodies, she said, do not have “the expertise to verify the conformity and veracity of information transmitted privately.”

Mme Valois must make a presentation Wednesday to the parliamentary committee which receives comments from groups interested in the bill.

The industry wants to go further far

On Tuesday, Minister Jonatan Julien took advantage of industry representatives' appearance in committee to question them on the risks of collusion. “We do not believe [that there are risks] because it [the partnership contracts] already exist elsewhere,” replied the representatives of the Association of Road Builders and Major Works of Quebec (ACRGTQ). “It exists in Australia, New Zealand and Ontario”, in particular, underlined the president of the council.

The ACRGTQ also argued that the Authority public procurement, which was created in the wake of the Charbonneau commission, was already “omnipresent”.

The group also invited the government of Quebec to push its reform even further by allowing more projects to go through partnership contracts. The government estimates that around 20% of infrastructure projects could be subject to it, either large-scale projects like the Quebec tramway or the Île-aux-Tourtes bridge, or even smaller projects, but having a high degree of complexity.

For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the total value of infrastructure contracts awarded by the government amounted to $9.8 billion.

The portion consultative consultation on the study of Bill 62 must continue and end on Wednesday. In addition to Ms. Valois, the Auditor General, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec and the Federation of Workers of Quebec are among the groups that must be heard.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116