Canada: Le Principe De L'égalité Entre Les Soumissionnaires S'applique Sans Égard À L'habitude De La Ville De Traiter Avec Un Soumissionnaire En Particulier

Last Updated: December 1 2017
Article by Alexia Magneron

Dans une décision récente, la Cour supérieure rejette la demande d'indemnisation pour perte de profits de Fermes A. Collin inc. (« Fermes ») suite au choix par la Municipalité de Saint-Esprit ( « Municipalité ») de retenir d'un autre cocontractant pour le déneigement de ses routes rompant ainsi plus de 20 ans de relations d'affaires avec la demanderesse.

La décision rappelle le principe selon lequel les municipalités jouissent d'une certaine latitude dans l'analyse des soumissions lors d'un appel d'offres. De plus, elle montre en filigrane qu'un contractant habituel d'une municipalité peut voir son contrat ne pas être renouvelé suite à un appel d'offres, sans autre recours que celui consistant à démontrer la non-conformité de ce processus.

LES FAITS

La demanderesse Suvre notamment dans le domaine de l'entretien et du déneigement des routes. Entre 1990 et 2013, elle détient le contrat de déneigement de toutes les routes de la Municipalité. En juillet 2013, pour s'assurer que le prix payé reste concurrentiel, la Municipalité ne renouvelle pas son contrat et lance un appel d'offres pour un contrat de déneigement de trois (3) ans. Après le dépôt des soumissions, le contrat est octroyé au Sentier de l'érable s.e.n.c. (« Sentier »). Mécontente de cette nouvelle, Fermes intente un recours au motif que la soumission présentée par Sentier n'était pas conforme aux exigences de l'appel d'offres. Selon elle, le contrat aurait dû lui être octroyé puisque sa soumission était la plus basse des soumissions conformes présentées. Elle réclame de la Municipalité 3 ans de perte de profits.

L'appel d'offres exigeait que les soumissionnaires aient à disposition : « une (1) niveleuse (si nécessaire en location) » et qu'ils fournissent les certificats d'immatriculation de cette dernière. Fermes, lors du dépôt de sa soumission, disposait d'une niveleuse en location, mais n'avait pas fourni les certificats d'immatriculation afférents, les ayant déjà fournis à la Municipalité dans le cadre des contrats antérieurs Sentier avait fourni les certificats d'immatriculation de sa niveleuse. Or, ceux-ci indiquaient que des tiers en étaient propriétaires et Sentier n'avait pas fourni l'entente de location avec ces propriétaires au soutien de sa soumission.

Lors de l'ouverture des soumissions, la Municipalité s'est satisfaite des certificats d'immatriculation joints par Sentier. Elle a aussi étudié la soumission de Fermes et l'a considérée conforme, malgré l'absence des certificats. Fermes argumente que la soumission de Sentier aurait dû être rejetée puisque les équipements identifiés dans les certificats d'immatriculation appartenaient à un tiers et qu'aucune entente de location n'avait été produite. En conséquence, aucune preuve ne démontrait que la niveleuse proposée par Sentier serait disponible au moment de la réalisation du contrat. La Municipalité rétorque que lors du dépôt des soumissions, la production des certifications d'immatriculation permettait de démontrer cette disponibilité.

LA DÉCISION

Face à ce litige, la Cour supérieure devait déterminer si la Municipalité avait accepté la soumission de Sentier bien que non conforme aux documents d'appel d'offres. Pour ce faire, elle adopte un raisonnement en deux temps :

1. La Cour rappelle que la conformité des soumissions s'analyse en fonction des documents d'appel d'offres. Cependant, les municipalités jouissent d'une certaine souplesse dans l'analyse des soumissions et leurs potentielles irrégularités. Les tribunaux distinguent les irrégularités mineures qui ne portent pas atteinte aux objectifs de l'appel d'offres et les irrégularités majeures, qui touchent les objectifs fondamentaux du processus. Une irrégularité majeure est celle qui a un effet sur le prix de la soumission et qui romprait l'équilibre entre soumissionnaire. Une municipalité ne peut accepter une soumission qui comporte une irrégularité majeure sous peine de se voir condamner à réparer le préjudice que le soumissionnaire lésé aurait subi.

2. Quant à l'interprétation des documents d'appel d'offres, la Cour supérieure revient sur les principes applicables bien établis selon lequel en cas de litige sur le contenu de ces documents, le Tribunal doit d'abord rechercher la volonté des parties exprimée dans lesdits documents en fonction des circonstances propres à l'espèce, les usages et l'équité. Si des doutes subsistent sur l'interprétation des documents, la municipalité, auteure de l'appel d'offres, devra en subir les inconvénients.

Le juge Poisson conclut qu'en l'espèce « les documents d'appel d'offres n'imposent pas au soumissionnaire, au moment du dépôt de la soumission et comme condition d'admissibilité et de conformité [...], l'obligation de faire la preuve qu'il est propriétaire ou locataire à long terme ou possède un contrat de location.» Cette conclusion est confirmée par la jurisprudence soumise par la demanderesse, qui a malheureusement couru à sa perte en soumettant à l'appui de sa demande des décisions où il y avait une exigence précise d'être locataire des équipements lors de la soumission. Ces affaires se distinguaient donc des faits pertinents en l'espèce.

CONCLUSION

La demanderesse, du fait de sa relation établie avec la Municipalité, pensait sans doute se voir adjuger le contrat de déneigement et n'avait pas prévu qu'un autre soumissionnaire l'emporte. Il appartiendra donc à l'entrepreneur habitué à traiter avec une municipalité de toujours afficher une grande prudence face à la concurrence et de veiller à soumissionner de façon conforme à chaque appel d'offres. En effet, le principe d'égalité des soumissionnaires gouvernant ce processus en tout temps, l'entrepreneur sera traité sur le même pied que les autres par la municipalité, peu importe sa connaissance du contrat et sa longue relation avec celle-ci.

Enfin, cette décision redéfinit bien la marge de manSuvre offerte au donneur d'ouvrage dans l'analyse des soumissions, ce tant que les objectifs fondamentaux du processus d'appel d'offres sont respectés.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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