MONTREAL (CUP) — Many citizens of both Quebec and Canada are eagerly anticipating the NHL’s return to Quebec City.
Since the Nordiques moved to Colorado in 1995, there has been an uncomfortable void left in the Quebec sports landscape. Many easterners felt their hand forced to reluctantly root for the rival Montreal Canadiens, while others disengaged entirely from the NHL brand.
With recent reports of efforts to bring a team back to Quebec, the mere possibility of the league’s return to the city has many giddy with anticipation.
Seemingly neglected, however, is Pierre Karl PÃ©ladeau — the potential beneficiary of a new franchise — whose political and moral background should give serious pause to Quebec residents and hockey fans as a whole.
PÃ©ladeau — head of Quebecor Media, the parent company of Videotron — has made no secret about wanting to revive professional hockey in Quebec City. According to Canadian Business, his net worth is in the vicinity of $415 million after taking over his father’s company.
Yet PÃ©ladeau wishes to not only own a Quebec franchise, but to have the federal government provide upwards of $175 million to build a new state-of-the-art arena to replace the outdated ColisÃ©e Pepsi. This does not include the estimated $175 million in provincial funds and $50 million in local city funds proposed for Quebec City’s new $400-million arena.
Indeed, on top of the modern standard of government-funded assistance, PÃ©ladeau’s potential coup strangely includes no funding of his own nearly half-billion dollar fortune.
This issue brings up an important question in sports — as a fan, where is your money going?
Franchise ownership for political purposes has begun to rear its head elsewhere, with Quebec’s candidacy making it the next target for this woeful practice.
In essence, the Quebecor CEO’s proposal would enable him to pocket the profits of hockey-mad Quebec City residents who have been deprived of NHL hockey for 15 years and would, in all likelihood, sell out the majority of games. All the while, he would have to repay nothing to the province.
These profits could be used to get PÃ©ladeau’s TV network brainchild, right-wing news outlet Sun TV News, off the ground.
Not surprisingly, as with most owners, many of PÃ©ladeau’s expenses and assets related to the team would be deemed tax-free by the government of Quebec in exchange for “revitalizing” the economy of Quebec City — an economic practice that has not yet proven effective in the past.
This is not the first time, however, that sports owners’ tactics have coincided with political interests.
Dick DeVos Jr., a current part-owner of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, has donated millions to Xe (formerly Blackwater), an American mercenary organization once owned by his brother-in-law Eric Prince. Blackwater was recently named in an Iraq War document leaked by WikiLeaks and several media organizations, citing the group responsible for civilian deaths in the region.
Likewise, Arizona Diamondbacks’ principal owner Ken Kendrick, who misled the public regarding his stance on the now infamous SB-1070 immigration law in Arizona, hosted a fundraiser at the Diamondbacks’ ballpark for Arizona state senator Jonathan Paton in his Congressional bid — Paton being one of SB-1070’s most outspoken supporters.
The ballpark was built primarily (over 70 per cent) with public funds.
Given these precedents of sports team owners supporting social injustices, one shudders to imagine what PÃ©ladeau’s new arena and TV network would give him as far as political sway.
The onus now lies upon the Prime Minister to deny this blatant cash grab and prevent further usurpation of public funds. In a CTV News report, Harper’s former top aid, Tom Flanagan, said the proposed funding of an arena in Quebec City “has the potential to create backlash not just in the West, but all across the country.”
Indeed, public dissent will need to rise to the surface to prevent a heist of this magnitude.
Under the current proposal, hockey’s return to Quebec City would invoke much stronger emotions than nostalgia. If the public bears the brunt of the investment, should they not also reap the benefits?
In the meantime, for those still in favour of a team relocating to Quebec City under PÃ©ladeau, a simple word of caution: Be careful what you wish for.