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Harper: No federal funding of arenas — unless Olympics are involved

New Quebec arena{jathumbnail off}

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once again spoke out against federal funding of a new arena in Quebec City, saying that traditionally arenas have been under the purview of local government and the private sector — but left open a loophole for any arena built as part of an Olympic bid.

Harper’s position isn’t surprising. After being coy about possible federal funding and then having cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Regina begin lining up for federal money, he’s backed away and held to the historically accurate story: that the Canadian federal government traditionally did not contribute money for arena construction. In Quebec City, officials are holding out for some level of federal funding, perhaps approaching a third of the total cost.

But Harper, whether he meant to or not, did leave open a pretty massive loophole: federal funding of Olympic facilities. When you look at sports facilities in Canada, many end up built because they are tied to major events, whether it be the Olympics or Pan-Am Games.

Which means Harper’s comments aren’t as bad for Quebec City as you’d think. Remember, the whole notion of a new arena in Quebec City came up in the context of making a bid for the Winter Olympics — the NHL was a secondary layer of frosting on the cake. So while some of the Canadian press is positioning this as a definitive statement against federal funding of an arena, we’re not — and we suspect Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume isn’t, either.

RELATED STORIES: Backup plan in works for Quebec City arena funding; Fallout from NHL to Quebec City could affect Remparts; Harper backtracks on federal funding of Quebec City arena; Could new Quebec arena open doors for federal spending on arenas? ; Province will pay up to 45 percent of new Quebec City arena; Quebec City on verge of new arena, return of NHL?

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