In 2000 ... Stephen Harper, then president of the National Citizens Coalition, decried a proposed federal tax break for Canadian NHL teams. "Canadians are being forced to subsidize millionaire hockey team owners and that's a misconduct," he said in a news release, calling it "a puck in the face of taxpayers." After the plan was scrapped, Harper was overjoyed, saying, "The taxpayers have scored a goal in overtime."But that was before he was being reduced to one seat in Quebec. Now he's the one who should be in the penalty box, for putting us further into debt to help pay for a millionaire hockey team owner's arena.
Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver all built new arenas with private money. Ottawa’s arena received only a dribble of federal money; indeed, the Ontario government made the owner of the day pay for a highway interchange. Winnipeg has the MTS Centre, paid for privately, which awaits the arrival of the NHL’s money-losing Phoenix Coyotes.Yet he couldn't find a few bucks for our veterans? This man must be stopped before he has to grow a third face.
Federal money for Quebec City would be a precedent for government subsidization of professional sports arenas. Think of Edmonton and Calgary, where owners want new buildings. Think of what might happen if Winnipeg’s owners wanted to expand the MTS Centre from 15,000 seats to, say, 18,000. Think of the future owner of an NHL team in Southern Ontario – a vastly larger market than Quebec City. Think of Ottawa, Regina and Hamilton, which are planning, or wanting, new stadiums for the Canadian Football League.
Who gains if the taxpayers pay the shot? None other than that great free marketeer Pierre Karl Péladeau, who tried to buy the Montreal Canadiens and would love to own a team in Quebec City that he could use to drive business for his television and cable networks. He’d be smiling all the way to the bank if taxpayers handed him a new building.
The United States is littered with stadiums and arenas paid for by taxpayers. Almost none of them pay for themselves, as study after study has shown. The New York Times reported this week on cities still paying the debts on stadiums that have been destroyed! How could any federal government say no to these requests, or others, having said yes to Quebec City? It couldn’t, politically.