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Manitoba got 'more than its fair share'

Toews reveals his thinking on Quebec City arena bucks

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A spiffy new $400-million NHL-ready hockey palace for Quebec City could be cost-shared with Ottawa under a joint infrastructure fund, Manitoba's senior MP Vic Toews said Friday.

In the same breath, Toews said Manitoba has already received more than it's fair share of federal money, including $15 million for the new football stadium being built at the University of Manitoba.

"What happens here through the infrastructure programs is that each province receives a certain amount of money," he said. "How that money is spent is usually determined through the municipalities, the province and the federal government. That money is provided on a formula for all the provinces."

Toews, the federal public safety minister, who was in Winnipeg for a $102-million federal-provincial public housing announcement, said he's not aware of Quebec being in line to get any more money under that formula.

"Manitoba has received, in fact, quite a substantial amount of money, certainly on a per-capita basis more than its fair share," he added. "We have, in fact, spent most of that money."

The Quebec government earlier this week unveiled a plan to build a new Colisée in Quebec City that called on Ottawa to pay $170 million towards the project. The new arena is considered essential if the Quebec capital wants to woo an NHL team. The Nordiques left for Denver in 1995.

When the $133.5-million MTS Centre was built several years ago, Ottawa only contributed $12 million under the Canada-Manitoba Infrastructure Program.

A clear sign of the strong support within the Tory caucus for the Quebec City project was on display Wednesday when Quebec MPs wore vintage Nordiques sweaters for the media. Most of the province's 11 Conservative MPs have seats in and around Quebec City as well as in eastern parts of the province. Missing was Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, who says he's onside with his fellow Tories who are interested in seeing the NHL back in Quebec City, but not at any price.

Bernier said in a news report that if Quebec City gets funding, then other cities will be lining up for their cash.

That includes Winnipeg, which is in the hunt for a NHL team to replace the Jets, who left in 1996.

Toews said no money has gone to Quebec for a new Colisée and any talk of it is just speculation.

Observers say the Harper government is eyeing its role in the project only because it needs more votes in Quebec to form a majority government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said if his government sends money to Quebec City, it will do the same for other cities.

But to date, Ottawa has been loath to spend money on professional sports teams.

"Whatever the leader said, I stand behind what the leader said," Toews said.

"My priority has been very consistent," he added. "Sewer, water, roads and other hard infrastructure, and that's what we've been providing to Manitobans."


--With files from the wire services


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 11, 2010 A4

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