Liberals would fund Que. arena, Ignatieff says

A federal Liberal government would pay for part of a multifunctional arena in any Canadian city, Michael Ignatieff says

Party supports cash for multipurpose facility

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff points at a luncheon speech at the Quebec chamber of commerce on Monday in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

A Liberal government would support infrastructure projects including hockey arenas, party leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday.

Speaking in Quebec City, the Liberal leader says he supports funding for a new arena if it's a multifunctional public space, and that he's said so for more than a year. He admits he hasn't seen the business plan but says there are a number of options and he's open to all of them.

"It's not a question of giving little gifts here and there," he said. "I think the project is important because it's a public space. That's what counts, a public space to present the culture, to present the economic success of the region.

"And if the same case arises in Regina or Vancouver I'll say the same thing ... If we're talking about a public space that contributes to the development of that region, then the federal government can contribute."  

Ignatieff drew a distinction between the Liberals and the other parties, pointing out the Conservative government has said no to giving federal cash to a new arena. He says voters in the next election will have a choice.

"There will be an alternative to the Conservatives who are saying no and the NDP that can't do anything, the Bloc (Québécois) that can't deliver anything, and the Liberal party that can deliver the goods on the arena question," Ignatieff said, adding he's impatient to have a debate on the issue in Quebec City.

"Mr. Harper ... said no to the arena. And I say yes, so there's a clear distinction there."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said earlier this month the government "does not have a program to fund sports arenas for professional sports teams."

"We're going to stay away from subsidizing professional sports," he said on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

Josée Verner, the minister responsible for the Quebec City region, has said funding from the private sector isn't enough to get the federal government involved.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume argues the federal Conservatives are taking a suicidal position by refusing to help finance the arena.

The Conservatives have most of their 11 Quebec seats around Quebec City.

So far, Quebec City and the provincial government are on the hook for picking up the estimated $400-million tab for the facility.

Quebecor has been licensed to name and manage the arena.

Regina and Edmonton have also asked for federal funding for sports complexes.