Quebec construction firms raided by Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau of Canada says it is conducting seizures at several construction firms in the Montreal area today.

More than a dozen Montreal-area businesses searched in bid-rigging probe

Catcan Inc. in St-Léonard was one of the businesses searched Tuesday morning by the Canadian Competition Bureau. (Alain Beland/Radio-Canada)

The Competition Bureau of Canada seized evidence from several Montreal-area construction firms Tuesday as part of a probe into allegations of bid-rigging and collusion in various public contracts.

The bureau said it is looking into allegations of an anti-competitive agreement among construction firms, but a spokeswoman stressed the investigation is in its infancy.

"Today, what we're doing is gathering evidence and this will be analyzed," Gabrielle Tasse said in a phone interview. "But there is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time and no charges have been laid."

There are reports that more than a dozen firms are being raided, but Tasse says she can't say how many are being targeted.

Tasse said the contracts in question involve the building of public parks and squares and the repair of sidewalks, pipes, streets and sewers.

Bid-rigging and inflated contracts in the construction industry have been the subject of previous testimony at Quebec's corruption inquiry.

The bureau has previously said it has been keeping tabs on testimony at the Charbonneau Commission and would not hesitate to investigate when necessary.

Tasse said this probe is being headed by the federal watchdog alone.

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

Investigations by the bureau are often lengthy, mainly because price-fixing and bid-rigging can be difficult to prove.

Several local police forces were helping collect evidence on Tuesday.