Special hearings will begin at Quebec's national assembly next week on a bill designed to legally protect the provincial capital because of a deal it made involving its new arena.

The controversial bill, which was introduced Thursday, is meant to protect the city after it made a multimillion-dollar deal with Quebecor to help fund and operate the arena.

Parti Québécois MNA Agnès Maltais, who sponsored the private member's bill, said the legislation wouldn't prevent lawsuits against Quebec City.

But she said it would declare the deal between the mayor and Quebecor legal even if it never went to public tenders.

Last winter, the media giant agreed to contribute $63 million to the project if an NHL franchise signs on, or $33 million in the absence of a professional team. Quebecor also agreed to pay the city another $3.15 million annually for the right to manage the building.


Plans for Quebec City's new arena. ((CBC/Radio-Canada))

Maltais said Quebecor is the most desirable candidate to manage the arena, because the company appears ready to buy an NHL team and to move it to Quebec City.

"And in that contract, there is the possibility of the arrival of that team," said Maltais.

At public hearings next week, witnesses will be called to fill in some of the information gaps.

City Councillor Yvon Bussière doubts Quebecor was the only firm interested in the contract. He believes both Bell and Molson might have teamed up with their own bid, but the mayor has kept that information secret.

With files from Tim Duboyce