Gatineau Mayor Marc Bureau looks to more tourism in 2013,
$135-million Destination Gatineau plan seeks to boost tourism on Quebec side of river
Marc Bureau sits at the head of a boardroom table in his city hall office as images of the Gatineau of his dreams slide in and out on the flat screen behind him.
An elevated walkway through a riverside archeological site, brightly dressed circus performers in a downtown park, and a large public gathering space with art, fountains and gardens to spiff up the concrete urban core.
Destination Gatineau, a $135-million plan to boost tourism and recreation on the Quebec side of the capital region, is one of five major projects the second-term mayor has in his sight for the year ahead.
“The goal is to create jobs and attract people to cross over to the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River,” he said. “We want to have activities every week, so when people come to Quebec, there’s always something going on.”
About half of the tourists who visit Ottawa do not cross over to Quebec despite attractions such as Gatineau Park and the newly christened Canadian Museum of History, he said. Bureau thinks the massive makeover plan and push for more cultural programming will change that in a growing and increasingly multicultural city.
Gatineau’s population is more than 265,000 — a spurt of nearly 10 per cent between 2006 and 2011, according to the latest census.
Bureau is looking to federal and provincial governments, as well as private partners, to fund the ambitious projects, including the construction of a new library, more affordable housing and a revitalization of Gatineau’s downtown complete with a public marketplace to rival Ottawa’s ByWard Market.
Bureau said one of the greatest challenges will be to secure funding from the new Parti Québécois government. The five seats in the Outaouais region have been held by Liberals for decades.
“Change in government comes with a certain amount of delays,” said Bureau. “It’s a work in progress. It’s a new government. It’s certain that I have to start over from all the work I’ve done with the Liberal government since (I was elected as mayor) in 2005. We have to work with the government that’s been elected, and I think we just need to give it time.”
Gatineau is also looking to the province for a boost for the final leg of the Rapibus, a bus-only road- way for the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais. The municipal budget has allocated $8 million for the 2.7-kilometre stretch between Labrosse and Lorrain boulevards. but the city is still negotiating with the PQ government for the remaining $24 million.
Bureau is pleased that the revamping of the waterfront portion of Jacques-Cartier Street along La Baie Park is set to go ahead in 2013 after years of environmental studies. The National Capital Commission will split the cost of the $32-million project with the City of Gatineau. The project is in line with the goals of Destination Gatineau, Bureau said.
Meanwhile, Quebec’s probe into corruption and collusion in the construction industry, which led to the resignation of the mayors of Montreal and Laval this fall, has not touched on Gatineau so far. Bureau does not expect Gatineau to get embroiled in any scandals when the commission, led by Justice France Charbonneau, resumes in January.
All municipalities with populations of more than 50,000 were asked by the commission to submit 15 years’ worth of public contracts for review.
“We handed all that over at the end of August,” Bureau said. “I don’t think there’s anything bad in there.”
When Bureau was elected, he opened up City Hall to allow executive committee meetings to be public, which is not a requirement in Quebec. Meetings can also be streamed on the City of Gatineau website.
“Everything is public — nothing is in-camera — and I think that helps,” Bureau said.
Interim Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum announced in December he would follow Gatineau’s example for public meetings in a new era of openness.
Bureau also suggested that cities are better off without municipal political parties, which are common in Quebec. He has been a vocal opponent of Action Gatineau, a municipal party established by a group of city councillors this past June.
“In my mind, it can be problematic. We’ve seen it in Montreal and Laval — political parties accumulated lots of money. I think it’s best that Gatineau does not have political parties,” he said.