New Brunswick: Bidders to learn who is seeking St. John work after city changes rules

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Bid-taking information will be open in St. John NB, under new rules (CBC photo)

Construction companies in Saint John, NB, will now know who else is going to bid on city jobs, CBC reports.

A majority of councillors voted in May to toss out a contract-tendering policy created in 2003 with direct help from Canada’s Competition Bureau to reduce the possibility of bid rigging.

Under that policy, potential competitors could not learn which other companies picked up the tender documents necessary to bid on a city contract.

In future, the names of potential bidders will be publicly available.

The change was made against the advice of city managers who fear it will lead to less competition and higher prices for the municipality.

CBC News has reported the policy of keeping the “plan takers list” confidential is recommended practice, according to the City or Toronto’s auditor general, Beverly Romeo-Beehler.

It was also a key recommendation of the Charbonneau Commission after a five-year investigation into corruption and bid rigging in Quebec’s construction industry.

Coun. John MacKenzie said he was not swayed by practices elsewhere or by concerns about higher prices. He said the city doesn’t have the kind of problems found with contractors in Quebec and Toronto.

“Unless you’ve got reason to distrust somebody, then you give them the benefit of the doubt,” said MacKenzie. “If they break that trust, then you’ve got reason to say, ‘you know, we’re going to change the way we do business.”

Council approved the change by a 6-3 vote at the request of the Saint John branch of the New Brunswick Construction Association.

Mayor Don Darling opposed the change but can only vote in the event of a tie.

“No one’s had any discussion with me about revisiting the issue,” said Darling. “But I think concerns that staff communicated to us during the lead-up to that decision likely have not changed.”

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