Longueuil contracts also rigged, SNC-Lavalin exec says

A system of collusion existed in Longueuil under the administration of two former mayors, according to testimony from the vice-president of the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

Yves Cadotte says firm 'donated' to Montreal South Shore election campaigns

Yves Cadotte said the system of collusion in Montreal engineering contracts ended after Zampino left office in late 2008. (Charbonneau commission)

A system of collusion existed in Longueuil under the administration of two former mayors, according to testimony from the vice-president of the country’s largest engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin.

Yves Cadotte told Quebec's corruption commission earlier today that his firm gave thousands of dollars in cash to support election campaigns in the Montreal South Shore municipality in 2005 and 2009.

Cadotte said that system operated on the watch of both mayors Jacques Olivier and Claude Gladu.

He explained that other firms, including Desseau, SM, Genivar and CIMA participated in a contract-sharing system in Longueuil.

"Once a year, there were a certain number of contracts going to tender . . . They told us, ‘You will get contract B,’" Cadotte said, adding that information was handed down well before the calls for tender were released.

No 3 per cent to Trépanier

Cadotte reaffirmed that SNC-Lavalin made a cash donation to the former mayor’s Union Montréal party in exchange for its role in a closed-market contract scheme, but he said it did not pay a three per cent kickback to the party's fundraising chief, Bernard Trépanier.

Previous witnesses have told the commission that they were asked to pay back three per cent of every contract they obtained as a "political donation" through Trépanier.

"I never heard talk of that," Cadotte said. He said if that was the case, it would have cost SNC-Lavalin around $900,000.

Trépanier did ask for a donation of $200,000 shortly before the 2005 municipal election, he said.

Cadotte told the commission last week that payment was made in two installments.

He said Trépanier asked that SNC-Lavalin pay a $75,000 bill allegedly issued by Morrow Communications.

Cadotte said that was a phony invoice used to free up cash.

On Monday, he said he also delivered $125,000 in cash to Trépanier, handing over a briefcase at the St-Léonard campaign office of Frank Zampino.

Cadotte said he waved to Zampino, who was in a meeting at the time, when he came to meet Trépanier but did not speak to him directly that day.

The witness said it was his impression that Zampino was pulling the strings in the scheme and that Trépanier was following directives that were handed down to him. He said Trépanier often told him he had to check with "Frank" if Cadotte had questions.

Cadotte also said that he disagreed with the depiction of engineer Michel Lalonde as the so-called spokesman for the engineering firms in the scheme. Lalonde told the commission in his testimony that he acted as the middleman representing the firms in dealing with Trépanier.

"I never saw it like that. He was the spokesperson of Mr. Bernard Trépanier," Cadotte said. "The firms never met together. We at SNC-Lavalin never initiated or proposed that system. . . All the orders came from Mr. Trépanier."

Expertise of firms considered

Cadotte said that system worked as long as it did because all of the firms involved had their specialties and expertise, so there were no hard feelings over the distribution of jobs, the majority of which were won by consortiums formed on the instruction of Trépanier.

"If that wasn’t respected, it would have been very problematic," he said.

Cadotte said he was uneasy with the arrangement, but SNC-Lavalin continued to take part until 2008 or early 2009.

After Zampino's resignation in late 2008, calls for tenders started to appear that were competitive, he said.

"In 2008, Mr. Zampino left. That was the signal," he said. "I’m not telling you that it all stopped the next day, but in my mind, that was the case."

This afternoon, the president of another engineering firm implicated in the collusion arrangement, Pierre Lavallée of BPR, is testifying.