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Péladeau proposes 'substantial' financing for Quebec City NHL arena

Fans of the Quebec Nordiques hold signs outside the location where an NHL hockey game between the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Thrashers is being held in Uniondale December 11, 2010. The fans had gathered to show that their city Quebec should have an NHL team of their own. The Quebec Nordiques last played in the NHL 15 years ago. REUTERS/Chip East

CHIP EAST

Media magnate Pierre Karl Péladeau says he's willing to pour "tens of millions of dollars" into building a new multipurpose arena in Quebec City.

Citing the return of NHL hockey to the city as his priority, the president of Quebecor confirmed his intentions in Quebec City on Sunday night.

"We have proposed something to the city that we consider to be very substantial," Mr. Péladeau told reporters, declining to elaborate on how much he's prepared to spend because "we want to keep these talks private."

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It also seems Quebecor, which recently won regulatory approval for a 24-hour sports channel, would be interested in managing the arena; there is considerable speculation in Quebec that other partners in the venture will shortly be announced, possibly including impresario René Angélil.

Negotiations continue over the financing of the arena, but Mr. Péladeau's announcement will surely ratchet up the pressure on the Conservative government in Ottawa - as a possible federal election looms - to kick in its share.

There's political chatter in Quebec that that could happen through the federal Public-Private Partnerships Canada agency, hence Ottawa's insistence on private funding as part of the project, which is expected to cost $350-million to $400-million.

Making a contribution using existing funds would presumably help attenuate any political fallout in other provinces.

Federals officials, however, said their position has not changed and that the ball remains in the hands of the municipal government.

A Conservative source said the contribution from the private sector must be "important" given the "federal government has not funded professional sports facilities in the past."

The government's position is that the project must be "equitable for all regions of the country and affordable for taxpayers' during this period of fiscal restraint."

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Public Works Minister Christian Paradis said Sunday that the interest from Quebecor is promising. "Certainly it's encouraging because we've always said there would eventually be participation from the federal government if the private sector made major investments."

The province and the city have already pledged $200-million, and Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume has repeatedly said the project will go ahead with or without federal funding. An official from Mr. Labeaume's political party let slip on Friday that a new arena deal had been reached and would be announced in three weeks - he backtracked later in the day.

The National Hockey League has signalled it would like to return to the home of the former Quebec Nordiques, but that can't happen without a new arena.

With reports from Daniel Leblanc and The Canadian Press

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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