Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Montreal building costs rose in wake of September 11

Montreal skyline

A former Quebec bureaucrat says signs of collusion in government infrastructure contracts became apparent to him after a bid to kick-start the province's economy in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gilles Roussy told Quebec's corruption inquiry on Tuesday it was early in 2002 when he started to notice an explosion in the cost of provincial contracts.

Mr. Roussy said the provincial government was committed to investing in infrastructure projects to help a stagnant economy and bumped the Transport Department's budget to $1.39-billion from $820-million.

Story continues below advertisement

He testified that before September, 2001, the difference between the department's estimates and the contractors' submissions was negligible.

But by the spring of 2002, company bids were coming in significantly higher – 25, 30 and sometimes 35 per cent higher than department estimates.

Mr. Roussy said that played havoc with the department's own cost estimates, which were established using historical bid data.

The former bureaucrat said he tried to fight the trend but the department didn't have the necessary tools or funding to investigate collusion.

Mr. Roussy said the budget for investigations – including salaries – amounted to $500,000. As a result, many files were transferred to the Competition Bureau of Canada, but Mr. Roussy said the results were not what he expected.

"We had cases where the accused were sentenced to relatively low fines, well below the amounts from which they'd benefited," Mr. Roussy said. "The department had to take action in civil court to recover the amounts."

On Monday, witness François Beaudry, a whistle-blower colleague of Mr. Roussy, said he'd been told by an informant about a widespread system of collusion in 2002. The tip was passed along to various levels of the civil service and even to politicians in the Transport Department, without any results.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Roussy confirmed what other former government employees have also said – that little was done at any level to change the status quo.

Mr. Beaudry testified that even provincial police were made aware, but Mr. Roussy said he warned his colleague to not put too much stock in authorities.

"I told [Mr. Beaudry] 'don't count too much on it, it won't work,' " Mr. Roussy said.

That case was also ultimately transferred to the Competition Bureau.

Mr. Roussy later went to the media himself when he wasn't satisfied with the police response.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at