Gatineau votes: Returning Gatineau mayor hunting for support — then for deer


Months of electioneering are winding down, thousands of handshakes, nine mayoral debates (nine!) and now Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin’s focus is mostly on Sunday, when the voting takes place. But not entirely.

He’s also dreaming about next weekend. For the first time in eight years, he’s going hunting. At least, that’s his plan.

In an interview at a Old Hull Starbucks last week, Pedneaud-Jobin was asked to tell something about himself that most people don’t know. It’s the kind of question that can stall an interview because people rack their brains for some special insight. But not this time.

“I’m a hunter,” he said right away. “Since I went into politics I’ve always missed my chance to go hunting. So the first weekend after the election I’m going hunting with my son.”

He’s strictly a deer hunter. Doesn’t hunt ducks, goes fishing occasionally but doesn’t feel deeply about it. Deer hunting takes him back into the hilly forest country where he was raised.

“Hunting is the thing I love most, spending whole days in the forest,” he said. And he especially loves bow-hunting — not only for the challenge but because bow season is in September, when the air still has a soft summer feel and a hunter can stay in the forest for a long time.

He is 49 years old, born and raised in Buckingham, just like his parents and, on the Pedneaud side, his grandparents. A bachelor’s degree from the University of Ottawa was followed by a master’s in regional development at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), then a thesis on the political relationship between the Outaouais and Ottawa.

It was a small-town economic fight that got him into real politics.

Buckingham, like many towns, had an old dairy dating back to the days when transportation was basic and farmers needed someone local to bottle their milk.

Times changed, and smaller dairies were swallowed up by big ones. The giant Agropur company bought the Château de Buckingham dairy, and closed it. Activists — Pedneaud-Jobin among them — began working in 2006 on a plan to open a new local dairy, which operates today as the Laiterie de l’Outaouais. Twenty jobs were eventually saved, and the name of Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin appeared in print (with a typo) spitting youthful defiance: “The closing — we reject it completely,” he told a reporter.

From 2002 to 2007 he was assistant to the CEO of the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais. He first ran for Gatineau council in 2009 and won the Buckingham seat. And in 2013 the relative newcomer took on incumbent mayor Marc Bureau, and won.


Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, seeking re-election as mayor of Gatineau, was born and raised in rural Buckingham.

He traces the win back to the founding of a group in 2008 called Projet Gatineau, which created itself as a think-tank on municipal issues, the kind of place where people talk about visions and ideals and fixing problems. They drew up, as such groups do, a manifesto on topics such as transit, the relationship with Ottawa, the role of the university and so on.

This gave him a grounding in the essential issues as seen by ordinary people in the community, he said. It also gave rise to Action Gatineau, a formal political party, and the only party in Gatineau’s municipal government.

(There’s a simpler explanation for his victory, too. With Marc Bureau as mayor, Gatineau struggled to get its Rapibus system — like Ottawa’s Transitway — running. Behind schedule and over budget, it became a long-running mess that Bureau himself later blamed for his loss.)

Pedneaud-Jobin defends the choice of running as a party while some independent candidates criticize it, saying it creates a council atmosphere of insiders and outsiders. Pedneaud-Jobin argues it allows him to get things done.

“On a council, the mayor has one vote out of 19,” he said. “I can make promises, but to deliver on them it requires people who agree with me.”

Pedneaud-Jobin has worked to develop a relationship with Ottawa.

“Mr. (Jim) Watson and I — first of all, we have worked together (for example) on our relationship with the federal government.

“For the first time, we have an agreement about public transit between Ottawa and Gatineau. For years we wanted that.”

He rates the Ottawa-Gatineau relationship at nine on a scale from one to 10 — not a full 10 because there’s always something to haggle over, but “an excellent relationship.” But until recently, he said, “for years the two cities didn’t talk to each other.”

The recent bid asking Amazon to come and build a headquarters in the national capital was significant, win or lose, he argues.

“That is the first time that the economic leaders on both sides of the river sat down together, and the objective was to say: ‘What are your strengths? What are our strengths?’ And for me that was extraordinary.

“I think Amazon was a turning point in the economic relationship of Ottawa-Gatineau.”

His relationship with some major business interests close to home is rockier.

Pedneaud-Jobin claims credit for substantially redesigning the planning machinery at city hall to get rid of “big, big difficulties” that caused delays.

“There were projects that were not moving ahead,” he says, and “for years there was tension between the City of Gatineau and the business community” caused by lack of efficiency at City Hall.

He says the system is more streamlined now.

“The problem is that I want to protect heritage. When I look at a project like the Brigil (Place des peuples) towers, which doesn’t respect the planning rules, or the National Capital Commission’s rules for Confederation Boulevard … and also these are towers in a heritage district.”

“I said there are places for these towers. Here for example” — he waves at a site behind the huge federal office blocks on the waterfront — “that’s no problem. But not in a heritage district.”

The problem is that Brigil boss Gilles Desjardins doesn’t want to tuck his towers in behind a massive office block. He wants them to have an unimpeded view of the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. After a recent meeting with the mayor, Desjardins claimed that Pedneaud-Jobin threatened his company by saying there would be “blood on the table” if Brigil tries to push its project through.

Pedneaud-Jobin denies using such language, though he acknowledges the two had a sharp disagreement. He says that if Gatineau allows one developer to chip away at heritage areas, then it will have to allow the next and the next, and pretty soon the past will be wiped out.

Another recent critic is Jean-Claude Des Rosiers, president of the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce. He accused Pedneaud-Jobin of giving political orders to city staff to get in Brigil’s way — a charge that Pedneaud-Jobin flatly denied. Des Rosiers said he had secret sources. Des Rosiers retracted the charge a few days later.

The mayor’s biggest priority: A rail link between Gatineau and Ottawa’s LRT, using the Prince of Wales Bridge.

“There has never been so much money available from the federal government for public transit.”

Another big priority is more surprising. In an era where so many people feel hard-copy books are dead relics, the man wants more libraries. You can hear him pick up enthusiasm, even though nobody in the debates bothered to ask much about culture.

“People say libraries are useless, but I think libraries are more useful now than before, because libraries are a place where immigrants integrate themselves. They provide computer technology to people who don’t have access to computers. Libraries are more important than ever before because our future isn’t in factories, it’s in the brainpower of our children.”

“That’s where the future is. In Ottawa, there are twice as many people signed up at libraries, per capita, compared to Gatineau. So the future is in Ottawa, and I want to change that.”

Library envy. Who would have suspected it?

And his own favourite books in the library?

There’s a flicker of embarrassment but he answers quickly. “Comic books.”


True, he swears. There’s a library in City Hall where, if there are comic books available, he has been known to scoop up an armful for the weekend. He’s partial to the historical stories.

“I read other things too, but that’s my favourite section.”

He’s been married for 17 years (though he has to stop for a second and check the math) and there are three kids. One will be going hunting with him in a few days.