Friday, September 10, 2010

"Tresor Publique Arena" or "Arena du Porc" for Quebec City?

With Quebec Premier Jean Charest's commitment to fund 45% of the proposed costs of a new state-of-the-art arena staring him in the face, along with the ambition of his friend, Pierre Karl Peladeau, Quebecor CEO to head the proposed NHL franchise, (he also wants to bring a Fox-friendly, conservative-friendly television network to Canada)  also staring him in the face, Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister of Canada is about to commit some $200 million public dollars to the arena project, in a blatant purchase of the votes from the Quebec electorate in the next election. (Is there a case of conflict of interest that might be considered here, given the close connection between Quebecor and the PMO?)
Reports abound that the five Conservative MP's from the city will abandon their political party if the funds are not forthcoming; the Mayor of Quebec city is reported to have set his legacy sights on the erection of the new facility and vows political revenge if the federal funds are not available.
And yet, the feasibility studies for the revenue viability of the project work only after all construction costs have come out of public funds, some provincial and the rest federal. There is no private commitment of capital for the project.
Talk about porking-the-barrel of electioneering!
In the Canadian hockey-crazed cultural context, there are few people who do not wish to see more NHL teams north of the 49th parallel; however, if this were to become "feasible" in the eyes of the PM, the rest of the country's several mid-sized cities would have a legitimate claim to federal funds for new arenas, based on the Quebec city precedent.
Naturally, the opposition parties are urging Harper to move ahead with the federal commitment to the project. They would then be able to paint him with the "pork-barrel" label, to the accompaniment of large doses of print and electronic headlines and news stories throughout the province supporting their charge. On the other hand, would the media in Quebec perhaps welcome the monies?
And we are told that this is an intelligent man (Harper) who is above "old-style" bag-men politics, scorning the Liberals for their sponsorship scandal....and yet, the only real difference between their sloppy and pitiful envelops of cash in restaurants for political hacks and the federal funding of this project is that this one will presumably involve a formal cheque in the name of the people of Canada to the City of Quebec (and thereby to the many construction companies and workers in that province).
And we also all know there is not another city in Canada that would be elegible for such largesse, especially at a time when there are no funds for medical treatment of Canadian veterans, and no monies for extended EI benefits (just this week cut back by 5 weeks) and reduced funds for health care, and no funds for housing for the homeless, and no funds to alleviate child poverty adn no funds for clean water for First Nations people.
So, go ahead, Mr. Prime Minister, and pledge your government's support for the outstanding 55% of the costs of the Quebec arena and watch the people of this country formally and fully acknowledge that your hands are just as filthy as all the other politicians who have tried to "buy" their own election with Quebec voters using the funds forked over by hard-working Canadians from all ten provinces and three territories. Of course, you will argue that it was economic and cultural development that prompted your decision if you proceed.
And we will all know what a sham that argument really is!
We have memories that recall the extensive cost overruns for the Montreal World's Fair, and the Olympics and we are not nearly as amenable to this prospective decision as we might have been then.
Fooled once, shame on you! Fooled twice, shame on me! Only we have lost count of the real number!

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