Government abandons fire-ravaged Gatineau office building

The federal government is cutting its losses and walking away from the fire-ravaged Louis-St. Laurent Building in Gatineau — and will now have to permanently relocate 1,800 employees.

Some 1,800 workers at the Louis St. Laurent building will be permanently relocated

The Louis St. Laurent building in Gatineau has remained closed since a fire in 2016. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/CBC)

The federal government is cutting its losses and walking away from the fire-ravaged Louis St. Laurent Building in Gatineau, Que.

Fire broke out at the building at 555 Boulevard de la Carrière in April 2016, causing significant damage to the sixth floor.

Parts of the roof collapsed and the building has been closed since.

Now, Radio-Canada has learned that the government has abandoned a legal battle to buy the building, one that it has already spent more than $33 million to repair. 

The Department of National Defence was one of the building's tenants, and while its lease has since expired it was required to carry out repairs after the fire.

The federal government will now permanently relocate 1,800 employees that worked there.

A portion of the roof collapsed in the blaze, which began on the sixth floor during renovation work. (CBC)

Tied up in court 

Gestion 555 Carrière Inc., the company that owns the building, had been in court with the federal government, battling over a provision of the lease that would allow the government to purchase the building.

But on Feb. 18, the government confirmed with a Quebec Superior Court judge that it would cease its attempts to both purchase the building or return to it.

The government will instead transfer management of the building back to the company. In an email, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) said all of the construction workers and their equipment would clear the site by March 24. 

The building's owner also confirmed to Radio-Canada that the government would not be returning as a tenant.

A portion of the Louis St. Laurent building roof collapsed after Thursday's fire. (Rob Hietanen/Twitter)

As of last September, the government had spent more than $33 million on the building, which included extensive work to shore the building and prevent collapse.

The government was insured, but Gatineau MP Steve MacKinnon, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said in September that cost-sharing between the insurer, the government and the building's owner had not yet been worked out.

On Saturday, MacKinnon's Liberal party colleague, Hull–Aylmer MP Greg Fergus, said the employees being relocated would remain on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.

With files from Radio-Canada's Antoine Trépanier