Quebec government reverses decision to build hospital on Gatineau's outskirts
Agrees to redo land analysis after facing public backlash
The Quebec government has reversed its decision to build a 600-bed hospital in an industrial park on the outskirts of Gatineau, Que., after facing major pushback from the public.
According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, the province has decided to re-evaluate the available sites after it faced strong pressure to locate a hospital closer to the city's downtown.
The province was less than two weeks away from a construction announcement about the $2.5-billion project, which would have been located off Highway 5 in the city's far northwest.
Papineau MNA Mathieu Lacombe, the minister responsible for the Outaouais, had defended the government's choice just days ago.
But a government source told Radio-Canada that officials will now take a second look at potential sites, with only a few weeks to complete the process.
The source said the Quebec government wants to get as many people as possible on board with the project, which — apart from the choice of land — is popular in western Quebec.
The promise of a new hospital in the Outaouais helped the Coalition Avenir Québec make a historic breakthrough in 2018, winning three of the region's five seats.
Concerns over accessibility, urban sprawl
The project's postponement is also a victory for an informal coalition of real estate developers, activists and local elected officials who opposed the earlier location.
They said the site was difficult to access by public transportation, while raising concerns over urban sprawl and a lack of transparency in the decision-making process.
A new hospital is a key element of the reform of the health system in the Outaouais, a region that suffers from bed shortages and sits at the bottom of many rankings for wait times.
Premier François Legault's government decided late last year to build the hospital on the industrial park, but after France Bélisle — who wants a more central location — was elected as Gatineau's mayor in November, the province agreed to carry out a new land analysis.
The process took into account about 20 sites, including about five that were analyzed in depth.
According to Radio-Canada, the City of Gatineau expressed a preference for a more central site located near the Casino du Lac-Leamy and the home supply store Réno-Dépôt, but the provincial government refused because of contamination concerns.
The hospital is not expected to open for another decade.
With files from Radio-Canada's Daniel LeBlanc