COC head calls for West to support proposed Quebec arena

The Canadian Press

9/12/2010 4:40:50 PM

QUEBEC -- The head of the Canadian Olympic Committee is calling on Western Canada to rally behind the idea of building a new hockey rink in Quebec City with federal funds.

Marcel Aubut, a former president of the defunct Quebec Nordiques hockey club, told Radio-Canada over the weekend that there were many reasons for the West to get behind the project.

He said a new arena would serve not only as a home for an NHL team, but would sweeten the city's bid to host the Olympics.

"(The West's support) would be a nice gesture, especially if Quebec becomes a contender for the Olympics," Aubut told the broadcaster.

"It becomes a chance to represent not only the province and the city, but the country as well."

The proposed $400 million dollar facility to replace Le Colisee in Quebec's capital is considered a prerequisite for the potential return of NHL hockey.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of the government have shown a willingness to support the project financially.

Ottawa has hinted it could provide around $175 million in federal funding.

But that prospect has angered some members of the Tory caucus, including Quebec City-area MP Maxime Bernier.

Several Western media outlets have also decried the potential funding as a wasteful use of taxpayers' money.

Aubut acknowledged that many in English Canada are uneasy about the financing.

"The precedent is an important one for Prime Minister Harper," he said. "The decision has to be well-thought out. But I'm confident it will happen."