Liberals, CAQ, PQ all open to public funding of new Montreal baseball stadium

Quebec’s three main political parties are open to the idea of providing public money for the construction of a new baseball stadium in downtown Montreal — as long as taxpayers aren't left on the hook for the whole thing.

Québec Solidaire, however, says 'not 1 cent' of taxpayer money should be spent on return of Expos

Philippe Couillard, right, and his Liberals, along with the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec, say they would provide funding for a new baseball stadium in Montreal as a minority stakeholder. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's three main political parties are open to the idea of providing public money for the construction of a new baseball stadium in downtown Montreal — as long as taxpayers aren't left on the hook for the whole thing.

The Quebec Liberal Party, Coalition Avenir Québec and the Parti Québécois are all willing to be minority partners in the project, with certain conditions.

Carlos Leitão, who was finance minister when Liberal leader Philippe Couillard called the election, said a private consortium must have a plan in place and must secure a team on its own.

 "We want nothing to do with the eventual purchase of a baseball team," said Leitão, speaking to reporters Wednesday.

However, he said, the province would look at possible financing options for the construction of a stadium as a minority partner.

That sentiment was echoed by Parti Québécois candidate Nicolas Marceau, who is running for re-election in the Lanaudière riding of Rousseau.

"The team must be purchased by a private group," Marceau said at a news conference Wednesday. He said a PQ government would only be willing to pick up a small part of the construction bill for a new stadium.

The CAQ has previously said it's willing to put public money toward the construction of a stadium, as long as a private consortium was paying for most of it.

"Long live baseball in Montreal," said CAQ leader François Legault Tuesday in Trois-Rivières after a supporter gave him a ball signed by former Expo and Baseball Hall-of-Famer Vladimir Guerrero.

Avoiding another white elephant

All the major parties keenly want to avoid another funding fiasco like that which led to the construction of Quebec City's ill-fated Vidéotron Centre, a decision made by Jean Charest's Liberal government back in 2011.

"We will not do 'build it and they will come,'" said Leitão.

Aside from a few high-profile concerts, that arena has largely remained empty since it opened three years ago, with Québecor Media Inc.'s failure to secure an NHL expansion team.

The Quebec government and Quebec City split the bill for the arena's construction — to the tune of nearly $400 million.

'Not 1 cent' from Québec Solidaire

In stark contrast to the three main parties' stance, Québec Solidaire is adamant it would never contribute public money to the construction of an NHL hockey arena. 

Party spokesperson Stéphanie Guevremont told Radio-Canada that the party would put "not one cent" toward the return of baseball to Montreal.

However, a Québec Solidaire government would be prepared to help pay for repairs to the roof of the Olympic Stadium. 

It's a position the party shares with the Liberals. Last year, the Couillard government committed to spending upwards of $200 million on the roof in the lead-up to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Canada, the United States and Mexico.

With files from Radio-Canada

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