Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Watchdog eyes Quebec construction business

  • Print

MONTREAL -- The corrupt actors in Quebec's construction industry can add this concern to a list that already includes possible criminal charges, a public inquiry and unwanted notoriety: there's also a federal watchdog hoping to sink its teeth into them.

The Competition Bureau of Canada says it is looking into the scandal-ridden industry. It is working with provincial anti-corruption authorities on a number of cartel and bid-rigging cases under investigation across the province.

The bureau says it is also keeping tabs on testimony at the province's Charbonneau inquiry, where witnesses have alleged widescale bid-rigging and collusion between construction companies with Mafia ties, civil servants and political party fundraisers.

"Investigating bid-rigging is one of the Bureau's criminal enforcement priorities," said Phil Norris, a Competition Bureau spokesman, in an email. "The Bureau will not hesitate to take action when it uncovers evidence that the law has been broken."

The federal body investigates suspected anti-competitive practices and is responsible for applying the Competition Act, which sets out potentially hefty fines and prison sentences.

Those convicted of conspiring to fix prices face fines of up to $25 million and up to 14 years in prison. Convictions for bid-rigging, meanwhile, carry fines that come at the discretion of the court and a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years.

None of the testimony from the Quebec inquiry can be used to build a case.

The Charbonneau commission, which is supposed to file a report by 2013, has granted witnesses legal immunity during their testimony.

But the information currently being dug up by police bodies could prove to be an investigative goldmine. The Competition Bureau has been involved in recent raids and seizures by Quebec's anti-corruption unit.

That squad, known by its acronym UPAC, has focused part of its attention on Laval, Que., the province's third-largest city, in recent weeks.

Gilles Vaillancourt, who became the second Montreal-area mayor to step down in the last week, has been targeted with several raids by the unit.

The federal bureau won't specifically say whether it was involved in the Laval raids.

"We have been working in partnership with UPAC on joint investigative files, we have participated in numerous searches, and have had an embedded officer in the joint task force since these allegations came to light," Norris said.

In March 2009, the Competition Act was amended to dramatically increase the penalties for bid-rigging. Before that, the bid-rigging provisions called for prison sentences of five years and fines at the discretion of the court.

The allegations being heard at the Charbonneau Commission are raising questions about whether the bureau has enough resources at its disposal.

The Opposition New Democrats said this week that the bureau should have more resources. Only a small fraction of the bureau's employees are based outside Ottawa.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2012 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Your top TV picks for this week - December 8-12

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Young goslings jostle for position to take a drink from a puddle in Brookside Cemetery Thursday morning- Day 23– June 14, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google