Former PM Mulroney not hopeful for Quebec NHL expansion this time around
Provincial capital is competing against Las Vegas for expansion franchise
An NHL franchise will "ultimately" return to Quebec City but not in the short term, former prime minister Brian Mulroney reiterated Friday.
A decision by the NHL's board of governors on expansion is expected by the end of the month.
The low Canadian dollar is a reality that cannot be ignored, Mulroney said at Universite de Montreal just a few minutes before he received an honorary degree.
"I spoke about this three months ago in Quebec City and I mentioned that, in my opinion, it wasn't for tomorrow — and I haven't changed my mind," said the chairman of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B), which has applied for an NHL expansion franchise for the province's capital city.
Mulroney indicated Quebecers should be patient.
"I am still enthusiastic for sure," he said. "For sure we will continue to work very hard on this file and I am convinced that ultimately the people of Quebec City will be happy."
The loonie factor
Quebec City is competing with Las Vegas for an NHL expansion team — and the gambling paradise is considered the favourite.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently said the league's board of governors should have a decision by June 22 on possible expansion.
Bettman said the board has three options: reject expansion, defer expansion, or choose one or both cities competing for a franchise.
The low loonie has made the price tag for an NHL team increase significantly, which Mulroney said is an important factor in the league's decision.
"I have no comment on the Canadian dollar," Mulroney said. "But Bettman has recognized that regarding Canadian teams, [the dollar] was an important element in the evaluation of a series of possibilities. We have to deal with reality."
Mulroney was later feted by Universite of Montreal for his achievements as prime minister, which include signing a free-trade agreement with the United States and pressuring South Africa's regime to end apartheid.
"The liberation of Nelson Mandela and the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa that imprisoned 35 million black people for decades ... Canada made a contribution," he said. "And I think it was a good thing."