EDMONTON — A battle is revving up between the Alberta government and its roadbuilders over reports that more than $500-million worth of road maintenance contracts are being given to a firm in British Columbia.
The Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association says Alberta firms can do the work and should be given a chance to bid.
The association also says such a contract would violate interprovincial free trade rules and could result in court action.
“It doesn’t live up to the trade agreements that the province has signed,” Ron Glen, head of the roadbuilders association, said in an interview Wednesday.
“We have nothing against competition coming in from another province. An open (bidding) process — that’s all we wanted to see come out of this.”
The deal would see B.C.-based Emcon Services take over maintenance of more than 40 per cent of Alberta’s roads over the next four to five years. The association estimates that would be worth $150 million a year.
The contracts had been held by Carillion Canada, but that firm is now under creditor protection.
Emcon president Frank Rizzardo would not confirm the numbers, but said he already has a deal in writing with Alberta pending the approval from an Ontario bankruptcy judge next week.
“Everything is tentative in draft and subject to the court approval,” Rizzardo said in an interview.
“Nothing is final. It’s like getting engaged. You don’t get married until somebody presides over you.”
He said the contracts run to 2022 or 2023.
Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason was not available for comment but his office, in a statement, said it will address the issue more fully after the court proceedings conclude.
“We are currently involved in negotiations with a third party that is working to purchase Carillion’s highway maintenance operations in Alberta and Ontario. Once it is approved by the courts, we will be able to release more details,” said the statement.
The department said Carillion’s contracts could not be retendered at this time because of the court protection Carillion is under.
The province has been working since January, when Carillion’s U.K.-based parent company collapsed, to ensure its highways are cleared of snow and maintained.
Carillion Canada has since been put under creditor protection and pieces of it have been sold off. Highway maintenance is set to go before a judge in Toronto next week.
The roadbuilders association has been working with the province and, in letters to Mason and his department, have been sounding alarm bells over suggestions of a deal with Emcon.
The association said it wants answers to reports that not only is the province giving the contracts to Emcon, it is making the deal more lucrative.