Some Corner Brookers were upset in April 2009 when the contract to build their new City Hall was won by a Quebec construction company.
They shook their heads in la shock and awe.
They asked how a $20-million tender could be awarded to a Quebec firm (Pomerleau Construction — 1 of 5 bidders), when NL companies aren’t allowed to bid on contracts in Quebec?
I was host of VOCM NightLine at the time, and received a whack of calls and e-mails raising the same point.
How is it possible that Quebec can bid on ours, but we can’t bid on theirs?
Accusations flew that Quebec workers and construction materials were being shipped in, and profits shipped out.
I made several public appeals for then-Corner Brook mayor Charles Pender to come on the night air and answer questions.
He never did.
It’s not often politicians are so unavailable.
Pomerleau Inc. is the same firm from St. George, Quebec currently building Corner Brook’s new long-term care facility on behalf of the provincial government.
The contract for the 236-bed facility was awarded in February 2007 for almost $50 million.
But it’s not the only contract the province has awarded to a Quebec construction company.
There’s a $12-million contract for a new school in L'Anse au Loup.
There are also rumours that other soon-to-be announced contracts will go to Quebec companies — including the new RNC headquarters in St. John’s.
The Liberals raised the Quebec-can-bid-here, NL-can’t-bid-there issue in the House of Assembly Thursday.
"This government is feeding Quebec with one hand and beating them over the head with the other hand, I say to you, Premier,” Liberal leader Yvonne Jones said, as quoted in today’s Telegram.
“Quebec contractors are able to operate freely in this province while restrictive labour practices effectively bar our own contractors from doing work in that province.”
The premier responded by asking Jones whether she wanted the province to break the Public Tendering Act.
Just because Quebec is screwing us, he added, doesn’t mean we should screw them.
That still doesn’t answer the question how Quebec companies are allowed to bid here, but NL can’t bid there.
Which is just wrong.
The Liberals have a point.
One that Danny shouldn’t ignore just because the Opposition makes it.
Danny Williams launched a “blistering” attack on Quebec Wednesday in a speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa and the 500 or so in attendance.
"The shock to me, as a provincial leader, is the sense of greed and arrogance and entitlement displayed by Quebec,” he said, referring to the development of the Lower Churchill.
But the problem doesn't begin and end with the Churchill.
That's just the headwaters.