"Bread and circuses, eh?" - Macleans.ca
 

“Bread and circuses, eh?”


 

As we try to sort out exactly where the Prime Minister stands on federal funding for pro-sports arenas and stadiums—starting, of course, with Quebec City’s proposed new $400-million rink— it’s worth keeping in mind what the opposition parties think of the idea.

They like it.

Late last week, I talked to Liberal MP Marc Garneau and NDP MP Thomas Mulcair to make sure I was clear on their parties’ positions. They both voiced solid approval for the notion of the federal government contributing to Quebec City’s arena, with certain conditions.

Garneau said his leader, Michael Ignatieff, had expressed general support about a year ago. At the time, the proposed arena was being sold largely as part of a future bid for the Winter Olympics and as a way of enhancing Quebec City’s tourism and recreation sector, although the prospect of luring an NHL team was part of the mix.

“If there is a solid business case,” Garneau said, “with participation from the municipal, provincial and private sectors, then the federal government under Liberal leadership would be prepared to be a partner.”

That part about the need for private sector participation could be a deal-breaker in Quebec, where none has so far materialized.

Mulcair, the lone NDP MP from Quebec, said his party supported spending on Quebec City’s arena as long as other cities could apply for funding under the same rules. “If we’re going to develop objective criteria for the spending of federal money on infrastructure for federal sports, fine,” he said.

Harper’s said about the same thing. But Mulcair added that the government’s investment in an arena shouldn’t facilitate a windfall private profit on what goes on inside it. “You have to make sure,” he said, “that somehow it doesn’t became a cash cow for private entrepreneurs who haven’t put the money in but somehow are going to get the money out.”

That could be problematic, since the whole point of publicly funding an arena in Quebec City is to make it attractive (i.e., profitable)  for private owners to put an NHL team on its ice.

On the broader question of why any government should even consider subsidizing a bid to coax the NHL back to Quebec City, Mulcair had this to say: “Professional sports are part of our society. Bread and circuses, eh?”


 

“Bread and circuses, eh?”

  1. “Professional sports are part of our society. Bread and circuses, eh?”

    Don't use those terms… after all, Layton led the charge against the 1996 Olympic bid, using those words, largely by arguing that he didn't want the Toronto rail lands to be used for private development without any consideration of public housing.

    So Toronto loses the Olympics to Atlanta… and the rail lands wind up being used for private real estate development without any consideration of public housing anyway. THAT was a great fight to pick, Mr. Layton.

    • Well the charge against the bid itself obviously didn't work,and I think the loss had more to do with Atlanta lavishly feting the IOC.

      • Yeah, people like Princess Anne are suckers for a good meal….in Georgia. LOL

  2. I think you need to watch CTV's Question Period from this Sunday in which Jack Layton said that the NDP would only support federal funding for an arena in Quebec City if all regions are treated equally AND if the money were being used to support a community-based team (I assume he means a model like the Green Bay Packers) not going to finance a bid by a billionaire friend of Stephen Harper like Pierre Karl Peladeau.
    http://watch.ctv.ca/news/ctvs-question-period/sep

    • if all regions are treated equally

      So you're saying that he wants to build arenas in every province? That's a lot of arenas and a lot of money.

      The Green Bay Packers have shareholders because the team makes money, and therefore, theoretically, they could get their money back some day, maybe even a little extra. The Nordiques would be a money pit. So what's the difference if they pay for the team in taxes or shares if they lose the money either way?

      • "So what's the difference if they pay for the team in taxes or shares if they lose the money either way?"

        Choice?

        • True. I suspect few people will choose to lose their money. But I could be wrong. At least the rest won't be dragged in.

      • Green Bay Packers shares can only be sold at a fixed price–there's economic incentive to buy them. Green Bay is also smaller than Quebec City and footbal salary are much higher than hockey salaries. The Nordiques were able to put together what became a Stanley Cup winning team just one year after they left Quebec City. At the time they were sold to Colorado, the Canadian dollar was at $0.63 and showed no signs of appreciating. Even the Nordiques owner at the time was willing to keep them in Quebec City if the government built them a new arena.

        Quebec City may or may not be the most profitable location for a new NHL team, but there's simply no reason to believe the Nordiques couldn't survive on a non-profit basis.

        All that aside, the main point is that we shouldn't be giving a $200 million handout to a billionaire friend of the prime minister–one who just happens to also be putting $25 million of his own money into partisan Conservative TV channel and newspaper chain run by the prime minister's former communications director.
        http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?…

        • "but there's simply no reason to believe the Nordiques couldn't survive on a non-profit basis. "

          Sure there is.

          You miss the point on the NFL argument – NFL teams don't come close to covering their payroll with local revenues unless they're a team like Dallas. Green Bay survives based on the NFL's incredible TV revenue and the equal division thereof. The NHL earns about $5 million / team in TV revenue, meaning they actually have to make their money at the gate.

          So just to cover payroll (and assuming a rock-bottom $40M), Quebec would have to sell 18,000 tickets at fifty bucks each for the season, closer to $70 if they spend to the current cap.

          Are there 18,000 people willing to pay that? There certainly weren't the last time with much more modest season ticket prices – the Nords last drew capacity crowds in 89-90.

    • Because nothing says federal spending for a community based franchise like Jack Layton's Canadian Constitution.

  3. Well, it's working.

    Bread and circuses have already diverted us from serious and important matters.

  4. Hey, SpaceMan!

    If there is a solid business case then businesses would be investing in it. Simple, eh?

    PS: Guess what? They're not investing in it. I will let you guess why, Mr. Garneau.

    • Yeah it's amazing that we have so many good things that businesses won't invest in. Universities, libraries, museums, space….

  5. But Mulcair added that the government's investment in an arena shouldn't facilitate a windfall private profit on what goes on inside it. “You have to make sure,” he said, “that somehow it doesn't became a cash cow for private entrepreneurs who haven't put the money in but somehow are going to get the money out.”

    I have a simple suggestion for how not to make it a cash cow for private entrepreneurs who haven't put the money in. Can you guess what that suggestion would be, Tom? Go ahead. I'll give you three guesses. You're a Dipper so I'll give you a chance because business sense is hard for a Dipper.

  6. As indescribably awful as the Tories have become, could ONE of the opposition parties please stop trying so damn hard to always be worse?

  7. Perhaps this is some complex eye-for-an-eye over the gun registry. Sort of a "You built a gun registry specifically to anoy conservatives, so I'll build an arena to really anoy libs and 'dippers.

    Sure it also anoys fiscal conservatives, but it seems these are a very easy group to ignore.

    • Annoy libs and dippers? Read the above again.

      it's worth keeping in mind what the opposition parties think of the idea.
      They like it.

      • Yes. I did notice that later.

        Among the many bizarre things about this whole ridiculous plan, is the suddenness of it all. It is dawning on me that this plan has been in the works, on the QT, for a very long time and is probably why Basillie got so slapped down – there was already a deal in place.

        All the more bitter that I really hate hockey.

  8. Marc Garneau and Thomas Mulcair aren't "the opposition parties".

    • This is a good point. For better or worse, individual members of the NDP and Liberal caucus have differing opinions on different issues. There are probably some NDP and Liberal MPs that are opposed to arena funding.

      This is in contrast to the Conservatives, all of whom display an almost frightening unanimity on everything.

  9. Of course they would do it. That isn't the point. The point is that we elected the Conservative Party (and presumably Mr. Harper) to be the voice of an accountable, fiscally sound government. That the Liberals would fellate Celine Dion – if they thought it would gain them more seats in Quebec – is irrelevant.

    Presumably, the Conservatives are f-ing adults, and don't have to resort to, "But! But! They started it!"

    • is there something about Celine Dion I don't know?

      • Yes.