By DAVID REEVELY AND NECO COCKBURN, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — The City of Ottawa has won its legal case with the Friends of Lansdowne with the release Thursday afternoon of a decision that rejects all the Friends' arguments.
The Friends had gone to court to try to stop plans to redevelop the property at Bank Street and the Rideau Canal, claiming the city had violated its own procurement bylaw, promised illegal subsidies to private business, and negotiated the whole thing in bad faith. The plan calls for the city to go into partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, a consortium of property developers and sports businessmen, to refurbish Frank Clair Stadium for pro football and soccer and build new residential and commercial space across the north end of the city-owned site.
Justice Charles Hackland dismisses each of the Friends' claims, finding either that the Friends didn't prove their point or that second-guessing politicians' political decisions is not the role of the court, as long as those decisions are made reasonably.
"The applicant's arguments ... even if correct factually or as matters of reasonable opinion, do not individually or taken together, amount to bad faith," Hackland wrote.
He wrote the public consultation on the Lansdowne plans was extensive, and so was the city's solicitation of expert outside advice. City council debated the matter thoroughly and made an honest decision, he found. On occasions where city staff presented erroneous or incomplete information to city council, Hackland found it they were the result of honest mistakes and didn't likely make any meaningful difference in councillors' deliberations.
The Friends pointed to a report from consulting firm Deloitte, presented to the city early in the consideration of the redevelopment proposal, which was critical of the prospective deal. The city didn't make it public or present it to councillors, a move the Friends alleged was improper. Hackland disagreed.