A member of the National Capital Commission board and Quebec City council candidate has stepped aside following price-fixing allegations in Gatineau.

Francois Paulhus, a former Gatineau civil engineer, temporarily recused himself from the NCC’s board and quit his campaign to become a Quebec City councillor on Wednesday.

The news comes a day after a public inquiry heard four major firms, including Paulhus' employer, conspired to fix prices on Gatineau public contracts for years.

Marc-Andre Gelinas, who revealed the scheme on Tuesday, said he and Paulhus used to discuss how to rig bidding using a secret code over the phone.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who oversees the NCC, said he welcomed the move.

Victimless collusion?

Gelinas said firms didn’t conspire to raise prices – they kept them stable.

Gatineau Mayor Marc Bureau continued to insist Wednesday the scheme hadn’t left the city any poorer.


Marc-André Gélinas, the Outaouais executive director of AECOM, testified construction companies in Gatineau participated in an elaborate price-fixing scheme while bidding on contracts. (Quebec corruption inquiry)

Gatineau’s auditor-general Alain Girard said in French that he disagrees, there are always costs to collusion.

University of Ottawa business and law professor Gilles Levasseur said there’s no such thing as a victimless collusion.

"When people are actually rigging the actual contracts, when they're actually manipulating the actual process of ensuring we get fair price for the contract we get, at the end of the day the citizen is the one who’s losing," he said.

"We are paying something more than what we should be paying in reality, so the money we should be using for other things is going in people’s pockets."

Levasseur said things are unlikely to change unless business owners who do work for municipalities are held personally accountable.