Late 2018 saw repeated delays in the legal process, as the government lawyers missed deadlines for producing documents and court dates were pushed off. Our issue is now scheduled to be heard in court May 22 and 23, 2019.
Our group of companies had to rely on court orders to compel Alberta Transportation to produce documentation about the case. We still have no satisfactory explanation for Minister Mason’s decision to hand the Carillion contracts to Emcon without any competitive process.
The Alberta Transportation website has a summary of the deal that allows Emcon to take over $120.5 million per year worth of Alberta highway maintenance contracts formerly held by bankrupt Carillion. This summary confirms the unfairness of the agreement, both to the existing Highway Maintenance Contractors and to the taxpayers of Alberta:
- The west contract is extended by two years beyond its expiry date of 2019, delaying a competitive tender process;
- Emcon is granted higher prices than Carillion received for the other two contracts, which expire in 2022 and 2023, for a total cost increase to Albertans of nearly $25 million.
The Emcon deal also marks an important change in how Alberta Transportation treats highway maintenance yards. Our five companies own our maintenance yards, with the associated costs. Emcon, on the other hand, is leasing all 63 maintenance yards associated with these contracts from the Government of Alberta, most of them at a “nominal fee.” The government opted to buy most of the maintenance yards from Carillion and then to lease them to Emcon essentially for free.
This part of the deal creates an unlevel playing field between Emcon and the long-time highway maintenance contractors. It also begs the question of why the Government of Alberta wants to get into the business of owning highway maintenance yards.
Albertans are left with higher costs for highway maintenance in the province, and a competitive playing field that is sharply tilted toward one company.