Quebec could con us out of NHL team
They hold a huge political advantage
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/10/2009 (4984 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CLEVELAND — So remember, way back when, that kerfuffle about how Winnipeg got hosed over that CF-18 maintenance contract, which ended up going to Quebec instead for what appeared to be purely political reasons?
Remember how that became a huge thing all over Western Canada and was a big contributor to the whole Western Alienation thing?
Well, try this one on for size: The federal government is being asked to contribute $175 million to the construction of a new arena for Quebec City so that, essentially, the Quebec capital can be the next Canadian city to get an NHL hockey team instead of us.
Now, to put that request in outrageous context, consider this: The entire MTS Centre cost just $133 million to construct — and just $14 million of that came from the federal government. And the feds whined about it, especially when they had to boost their contribution at the last minute from $13 million to $14 million. I kid you not.
Now, I don’t care if you’re a hockey fan or not, if you think the NHL is viable in Winnipeg or not, if you think there should be government money in sports arenas or not. Because whatever your position on those polarizing questions, if you hail from Manitoba you should pay close attention to what Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume told a news conference Friday.
And you should remember it whenever the next federal election comes.
Because if the governing Tories cave to Quebec — and, let’s face it, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, now would it? — the people of Manitoba, hockey fans and not, will have gotten hosed in a way that will make the CF-18 fiasco look like a minor slight.
Because there is no way Winnipeg will be able to compete for the seventh Canadian NHL team against what sounds like a taxpayer funded ice palace more than an arena, particularly with our tight-budget MTS Centre and a 15,000-seat capacity that many already perceive as too small to house an NHL team.
Mark Chipman, chairman of the group that owns the MTS Centre, refused a request for an interview on Friday, but I can assure you of one thing: Chipman, who’s made no secret of his interest in acquiring an NHL tenant for his building, certainly took notice of what was going on in Quebec Friday.
Here’s the deal: A week after he made headlines by meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and expressing his city’s desires to return to the NHL fold 14 years after the Nordiques moved to Colorado, Labeaume told a news conference Friday morning that he wants a new $400-million arena to back a Quebec City bid for an NHL team.
Labeaume announced the city has already hired engineering firm SNC Lavalin to conduct a feasibility study and would like to see the arena completed by 2012.
And that small mattwer of money? Labeaume — who, not coincidentally, is presently running for re-election — says Quebec City will contribute $50 million, while he’ll be expecting the province of Quebec and the federal government to contribute $175 million — apiece — under infrastructure programs.
Now, as outrageous as all this sounds, here’s what’s scary: the federal Tories made long sought after political gains in Quebec City in the 2006 federal election and considered the area an absolutely integral foothold in a province they need if they’re ever going to form a majority government.
All of which is to say that Labeaume is approaching the feds at a time when they will be motivated. And don’t think he doesn’t know it.
You know what politics and hockey have in common? Timing is everything — and you always have to beware the hit from behind.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.