Legal challenge won't delay new arena: Gatineau mayor

A legal challenge launched by a city councillor won't delay Gatineau's plans to replace the aging Robert Guertin arena with a new multi-use sporting complex, Gatineau's mayor said Wednesday.

City councillor has challenged validity of deal with not-for-profit to operate arena

The proposed sports complex to replace the Robert Guertin arena would have four ice rinks, including the stadium ice for the Gatineau Olympiques. (Courtesy VMSO)

A legal challenge launched by a city councillor won't delay Gatineau's plans to replace the aging Robert Guertin arena with a new multi-use sporting complex, the city's mayor said Wednesday.

Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and leaders with Vision Multisports Outaouais (VMSO), the not-for-profit which will build and operate the complex, both said they don't intend to revise their timetable for the construction of the new arena, as doing so would be costly.

"Our decision is that we will not slow down. We will continue working on this project," Pedneaud-Jobin said. "Because if we slow down it's going to cost more. If we stop it's going to cost a lot more. And the losers will be the citizens of Gatineau, and we don't want that to happen."

The mayor and VMSO met Wednesday after a Quebec Superior Court judge agreed to schedule a hearing on Dec. 19 about the admissibility of a complaint lodged by councillor Denise Laferrière. 

Laferrière launched the complaint this summer, challenging the validity of the city's decision to negotiate directly with VMSO for the arena.

Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said he can't see anything positive that will come out of the legal challenge of the city's deal to rebuild the Robert Guertin arena. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

Arena to open in 2020

The December date for the court hearing led another councillor, Gilles Carpentier, to speculate on Tuesday that it might delay the arena build.

But Pedneaud-Jobin said yesterday that a delay wasn't likely.

"It's a procedure issue. In the worst-case scenario we'll have to redo some procedure, but we'll still have a project," he said.

If the court proceedings lead to delays, the city and VMSO will work out who pays those extra costs, Pedneaud-Jobin added.

But he said he's confident the city negotiated the deal properly.

'We made sure'

"We made sure with the government of Quebec. We met with more than one minister… to make sure that what we did was right," he said.

When the deal to build the 4,000-seat arena — which will be home to the Gatineau Olympiques junior hockey team — was announced in February, some councillors complained the project was sole-sourced, while others didn't like moving the arena from the downtown to the city's east end.

But council voted 12 to 5 in favour of the agreement.

The total bill for the project is expected to be $79 million, with VMSO paying $16 million, the city of Gatineau contributing $36.5 million and the province of Quebec providing $26 million.

The arena, to be located on Boulevard de la Cité, near Boulevard Maloney Ouest, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020.