09/03/2013 13:22 EDT | Updated 11/03/2013 05:12 EST

Gatineau contractors colluded to rig bids, witness says

After a 10-week break, the public hearings before Quebec’s corruption inquiry resumed this morning with more testimony about bid-rigging — this time involving companies outside of Montreal.

Construction companies in Gatineau participated in an elaborate price-fixing scheme to maintain profit margins, according to the testimony of Marc-André Gélinas, the first witness to appear this morning.

Gélinas, the Outaouais executive director of the construction firm AECOM, said collusion was the unintended consequence of Quebec’s Bill 106.

The law came into force in 2002, requiring municipalities to take the lowest bid submitted on infrastructure projects.

However, testified Gélinas, companies worked together to rig bids to ensure certain companies obtained the contracts.

He described using a verbal code on phone calls to fix bidding prices.

Several people, many of whom are facing criminal charges, have launched battles in court to try and avoid being called to the witness box before the commission.

Tony Accurso, the embattled former construction magnate, is one of those people and is scheduled to appear in Quebec Superior Court Friday to fight an order to appear issued by the commission earlier this year.

He has maintained that his testimony at the inquiry would make it impossible for him to have a fair trial in his impending fraud cases.

During its fall session, the inquiry is expected to delve further into the ways members of organized crime allegedly accessed the assets of the Quebec Federation of Labour’s Solidarity Fund.

The inquiry is also expected to dig deeper into lucrative construction contracts issued by Transport Quebec and examine how much of taxpayers’ money was involved.