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Gatineau Chamber president resigns

Gatineau Chamber president resigns

OTTAWA: The president of the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, who publicly suggested the president of Brigil Construction, was polarizing the business community with George Bush-like tactics, resigned from his position Friday.

In a written statement, Antoine Normand, who has served as president since March 2012, thanked those who supported him over the years and said he was leaving with his head held high.

“By resigning, I take all my freedom of speech,” he wrote, adding that he told the members of the board that he would not be their “personal puppet. My integrity, my freedom of expression are worth much more than a job (as) president. ”

He said he was proud of accomplishments such as the 2030 Economic Vision, the Outaouais Common Front and his commitment to higher education.

Normand’s resignation stems from comments he made in a Le Droit interview where he said he felt Brigil president Gilles Desjardins was putting too much pressure on the local business community to back his new controversial Place des Peuples project — a $400-million mixed-use condo to be built in front of the Canadian Museum of History. The proposal includes soaring twin glass towers, one as high as 55 storeys.

Normand, a software developer, told the Citizen he compared Desjardins’ conduct to George Bush’s infamous phrase he used after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks: “You are either with us or against us.”

Desjardins did not respond to the Citizen’s request for comment, but was quoted in Le Droit Wednesday as saying Normand’s remark was “a very unfortunate statement, outrageous, and unfounded.”

He said the suggestion that he was strong-arming people to back his ambitious project hurt his credibility and goes against the mission of the chamber — which is to support the economic community of Gatineau. Desjardins did not accept Normand’s apology this week and implored the chamber, of which Desjardins is a member, to remove Normand from the business organization for five years or he would take legal action.

“Despite the controversy of recent days, I continue to believe in the economic potential of Gatineau,” Normand told the Citizen.