Feds need solid numbers before inking arena deal

JESSICA MURPHY, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

OTTAWA – Federal funds could still flow for the proposed Quebec City NHL-calibre arena project, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josee Verner said.

“The door isn't closed, far from it,” the Tory MP told reporters Thursday afternoon in Quebec City.

But the minister said the feds just don't have the numbers they need to ink a deal.

"We can`t move forward on this file because there isn't a clear and precise offer on the table," she said, adding the government learned through the media that Quebecor boss Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose business empire includes QMI Agency, had made a formal proposal of tens of millions of dollars to help fund the arena.

The Tories have come under attack from the opposition and the Quebec City government over their inconclusive comments on the issue.

“After more than six months, Stephen Harper’s government maintains an unacceptable and deliberate ambivalence regarding this project,” the Liberals said in a statement released Thursday.

The notice comes a day after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters that the federal government shouldn't fund professional sports facilities.

Ignatieff then softened his stand, noting a Liberal government would pony up cash for the arena if it were a multifunctional project with substantial and clear support from the private sector and backed by a solid business plan. The money would also need to be part of a funding deal with a national scope.

Meanwhile, the Quebec City government said it has given up on the feds.

“They have everything they need,” Mayor Regis Labeaume said Thursday, noting discussions were continuing with the private sector.

“Everyone realizes where we're at but (the federal government).”

The proposed hockey rink and convention centre is part of a planned Olympic bid and necessary for the return of the Quebec Nordiques franchise to the provincial capital.

The city and the province of Quebec have pledged 45% of the estimated $400-million cost of the project. Quebec had wanted the federal government to ante up the rest.


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