08/07/2013 15:51 EDT | Updated 10/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Montreal awards contracts to tainted firms

Montreal mayor Laurent Blanchard says the city has no choice but to put pragmatism before integrity, awarding contracts for urgent work to companies that have admitted to corruption.

The city's executive committee voted this morning to award a pair of engineering and consulting contracts to SNC-Lavalin and BPR.

Senior executives from both those companies have admitted to being major players in vast corruption schemes.

- SNC-Lavalin exec admits to illegal party financing in Quebec

- Head of BPR quits after admitting exchanging money for contracts

- Lisée announces 'new and improved' anti-corruption bill

"It feels unpleasant, awkward and embarrassing," Blanchard said. "It's not an easy choice, but it's a responsible choice."

The contracts are related to urgent sewer and water pipe repairs.

Blanchard said the city wants to avoid further incidents like the one that occurred earlier this week — when a sinkhole opened up at the corner of Guy and Ste-Catherine streets in downtown Montreal, swallowing a backhoe.

The recently passed provincial anti-corruption law means companies bidding for large municipal contracts now must be approved by the provincial securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF.)

However, Blanchard said the call for tenders for these two contracts was issued a week before that law was adopted, so legally they cannot be blocked.

He added that it will take at least three years for the AMF to come up with its final list of approved companies.

Blanchard says that means whoever succeeds him as mayor after November's municipal election will face the same tough choices that he's faced.

The contracts are worth $500,000 and $800,000.