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Alberta going to court, accused of breaking trade rules on $482M road contract

The Canadian Press
Alberta going to court, accused of breaking trade rules on $482M road contract

EDMONTON – Five Alberta road contractors are taking the province to court over a new $482-million highway maintenance deal for a B.C.-based firm.

The contractors say the government broke tendering and free-trade rules by entering into a deal recently with Emcon Services to plow snow from and maintain 43 per cent of Alberta’s highways.

They say the province has been procedurally unfair and have asked a Court of Queen’s Bench judge to review the matter on Sept. 7.

“The fundamental concern is about value and fairness,” Laurie Stretch, speaking for the companies involved, said Wednesday (Aug. 1).

“What the government has done in this case is bound to make this more costly for Albertans.”

The dispute surrounds the road maintenance contract that had been handled by Carillion Canada, which was placed under creditor protection earlier this year.

Carillion Canada handled road maintenance in Alberta, along with contracts in Ontario.

Last week, a bankruptcy court ruled that those three contracts will now go to Emcon.

The five contractors, in their court application, said that rather than simply let another firm assume the old Carillion contracts, the government instead secretly made an add-on deal with Emcon that included longer timelines and more money.

Those changes, they said, mean the contract should have been re-tendered, with everyone getting a chance to bid.

“(Transportation Minister) Brian Mason violated his government’s legal requirements by granting contractual concessions and extensions in favour of one company, effectively sole-sourcing contracts,” wrote the companies in a release.

Alberta Transportation spokesman John Archer said when Carillion Canada entered into creditor protection earlier this year, Emcon came forward to bid for the Carillion contract, but asked for other concessions.

Archer said any company could have made an offer, but that Emcon was the only company that did so.

“Our overall interest here is ensuring that there is maintenance done on Alberta’s highways and that there is road clearing equipment and personnel in place to do this without a gap in service,” he said.

“And in an effort to try to get the best deal possible for Alberta taxpayers we dealt with the bid that was on the table.”

Archer also said the province could not re-tender the individual Carillion contracts under the terms of the bankruptcy negotiations.

The province and Emcon have agreed to extend one maintenance contract, due to expire in 2019, by two years at the same price.

It will also pay out $2.75 million more for each of two other contracts that are to expire in 2022 and 2023.

The deal also honours existing labour agreements, which include 300 jobs in the winter and up to 500 in the summer, many of them with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

The five firms involved are: Alberta Highway Services, Carmacks Maintenance Services, LaPrairie Works, Ledcor Highways and Volker Stevin Highways.

United Conservative transportation critic Wayne Drysdale said the public needs to know more about how the deal went down.

“We share many of the concerns articulated today by Alberta’s remaining five highway maintenance contractors,” said Drysdale in a release.

“This entire process has lacked transparency and accountability, both with other maintenance contractors and Alberta taxpayers.”

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