© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey addresses a crowd of protesters against his department's plan to realign the TransCanada highway in Churchill.
The provincial government has three more low bids for work on the Trans Canada Highway realignment, including from a company in which MLA Richard Brown is a shareholder.
The biggest was Island Construction's $8,246,838 bid for a roadwork tender that closed Tuesday.
It was the company's second low bid for work on the project, although neither tender has been awarded yet, pending approval of an environmental assessment.
The province also recently awarded tenders to Stratford-based Atlantic Hy-Span worth $441,456.05 for pre-cast concrete work and Nova Scotia-based Shaw Precast Solutions worth $705,042.40 for pre-cast arch and pipe sections.
Brown is a shareholder in a blind trust in Atlantic Hy-Span and his brother David is the company's president.
Transportation Minister Robert Vessey said every company that submitted bids did so in an open process with the lowest bid selected.
"It's as open and transparent as you can get," he said.
Vessey said three companies submitted bids for the concrete work Atlantic Hy-Span will be doing for the highway re-alignment. He also said the entire process has given Island companies a chance to compete in what he repeated was an open tender process.
"We wouldn't have it any other way," he said.
Last week the government announced Island Construction also had the lowest bid on the first tender for roadwork worth about $6.6 million.
It's all part of the $16-million budget the provincial and federal governments are cost sharing as part of the Atlantic Gateway improvements with work set to start next month.
Although the government hasn't awarded the Island Construction tenders yet, it has awarded them for the concrete work.
If the project fails its environmental assessment the province can keep the concrete structures for future use.
The environment assessment, which was presented to the public at a meeting Monday night, is one of the last steps for the project. Members of the public have 10 days as of Tuesday to make any submissions on the assessment.
From there, department staff will have to recommend approval to Environment Minister Janice Sherry, who will also have to sign off on it. If the assessment fails then the project won't proceed.
Vessey said the latest Island Construction bid was for a 3.2 kilometre section east of Riverdale Road.
The work Island Construction will do is expected to create about 200 jobs over the course of the construction, Vessey said.
"It's great economic impact on the province to keep all those dollars here," he said.
For the second tender Island Construction bid on, Vessey said four companies submitted bids, including two from the P.E.I.
Vessey said every successful company is assessed in its ability to carry out the necessary work.
"They all go through a process," he said.
With another Island company coming in with the latest low bid, Vessey said it was good for P.E.I.
"I think that's great news for the companies and taxpayers and the provincial economy."
Attempts were made to reach Brown for comment but were unsuccessful.