04/08/2013 08:11 EDT | Updated 06/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Water-pipe manufacturers say Montreal is shutting them out

Manufacturers of PVC piping, who say they continue to be shut out of bidding on Montreal’s municipal contracts, are hoping Quebec’s corruption inquiry will encourage a more open market.

The City of Montreal currently specifies that its pipes must be made of concrete and iron.

In a city like Montreal where water main breaks are a common occurrence, PVC manufacturers say the plastic piping could make a difference.

Representatives with the PVC Pipe Association have been meeting with Montreal officials over the last year to ask the city to list PVC under its specifications for piping materials.

“We’ve met with most key officials provincially as well as municipally in Montreal,“ says Bruce Hollands, head of the PVC Pipe Association.

Despite the fact most North American cities are adopting PVC pipes as a standard, Hollands says no one in Montreal seems to be listening.

“Nobody’s gotten back to us,” he said.

Last fall, Quebec’s corruption inquiry heard testimony from Michel Cadotte, who works for a PVC pipe company.

Cadotte told the inquiry he spent more than a decade trying to convince the city to purchase his company's PVC pipes for its sewers and water mains.

But he said his plans for city contracts fell through after he refused to pay $150,000 in kickbacks.

A solution for water main breaks

Hollands says Calgary used to deal with repeated water main breaks during the 1970s, but the city introduced PVC piping and now more than half of its system uses the material.

Today, Hollands says Calgary has the lowest water main break rates on the continent.

“The beauty of it is it performs well but it's also cost-effective,” he said. “It can be up to 70 per cent cheaper."

He said PVC doesn't corrode, so it lasts longer than other materials.

Over the last year, Hollands met with a number of officials including Mayor Michael Applebaum, who was the mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce at the time.

Hollands says he had hopes the Charbonneau corruption inquiry would inspire change.

But despite numerous meetings, he says he has yet to receive any commitment that the city is willing to open its market to PVC.

No one from the city was available to comment.