Quebec company seeks court injunction against N.W.T. bridge work

A Quebec-based company has asked the Northwest Territories Supreme Court for an injunction against the company building a bridge across the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories, CBC News has learned.

A Quebec-based company has asked the Northwest Territories Supreme Court for an injunction against the company building the Deh Cho Bridge in the Northwest Territories, CBC News learned Tuesday.

Canam Group Inc. of Boucherville, Que., wants to prevent the Deh Cho Bridge Corp. from buying steel for the bridge across the Mackenzie Riverfrom any other manufacturer until Canam's breach of contract lawsuit is heard.

The proposed1,045 metre-long span, to be locatedin Fort Providence, N.W.T., would replace ferries and ice roads across the Mackenzie River, providing a year-round connection between the territory and provinces to the south.

The Deh Cho Bridge Corp. was set up specifically to construct and operate the bridge.Itwas incorporated in 2002 by the Dene, Métis and hamlet councils in Fort Providence at the request of the territorial government.

In the lawsuit filed with the injunctionon June 6, Canam claims the bridge corporation has refused to honourtheir contract and asks the court to order the bridge corporation to honour it or pay unspecified damages for loss of work.

Canam Group, operating under its Structal-Bridges unit, filed the lawsuit in the Supreme Court against the Deh Cho Bridge Corp. and two of its engineers.

In the statement of claim, Canamsaid the bridge corporation invited it in April 2006 to bid on the cost of manufacturing and supplying various steel components for the bridge.

Canam provided a $39-million bid later that month. But in September, the bridge corporation told Canam it had encountereddelays inobtaining federal government funding to cover the escalating costs of the project.

Canam said inMarch 2007 that its costs had gone up by $350,000,the statement of claim says. The Deh Cho Bridge Corp. agreed to pay the increased amount and the two entities reached a binding agreement for the steel, the statement says.

But in May, the bridge corporation said it did not need Canam's services because it planned to hire a general contractor, the statement says. Canam alleges that its contract has been breached.

Deh Cho Bridge denies contract was reached

The Deh Cho Bridge Corp.'s statement of defence says there was no contract and nothing is owing.

"The defendants deny that a binding agreement was reached between the plaintiff and the Bridge Corporation," the statement of defence reads in part.

"The interaction between the plaintiff and the Bridge Corporation consisted of negotiations regarding the supply, fabrication and delivery of the materials.… These negotiations were terminated by the Bridge Corporation after it was determined that satisfactory arrangements could not be made with other suppliers and contractors for the other components of the Bridge Project."

Deh Cho's talks with the general contractors were continuingwhen it filed its statement of defence on July 18.

Calls to Deh Cho and Canamwere not returned as of Tuesday afternoon.

News of the lawsuit comes as the bridge corporation has invited territorial politicians to a sod-turning ceremony Friday for the bridge.

MLA worried

Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay told CBC News that he's worried the territorial government,which is underwriting the Deh Cho Bridge Corp., may end up paying millions of dollars to deal with the lawsuit.

The lawsuit could also add to escalating costs of building the bridge, currently pegged at about $150 million.

"There's going to be a tremendous amount of public money going into this project, and I want to make sure that it's not going to be going to pay companies who are suing the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation," Ramsay said Tuesday.

"We have to be cognizant of what the liabilities are, and take them into consideration."

The Northwest Territories government has been hoping construction would begin soonon the bridge, even though some MLAs have said they're concerned that the government has not secured federal funding for the project.

Premier Joe Handleyhas said construction would begin this summer.