At year's end, the headline in Toronto's Quebecor-owned Sun read "Feds won't fund Quebec City's new arena." However, with Quebecor one of the arena's most prominent backers, the subject featured prominently in the Prime Minister's French-language year-end interview on the Quebecor-owned TVA network. And anyone who watched that interview would have come away with the impression that Mr. Harper was not closing any doors on the hockey, er multi-purpose arena being championed by Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume-an arena that is of intense interest to Quebecor President Pierre-Karl Peladeau.
A new SOM poll conducted in the Quebec region-where the lion's share of Conservative seats are located-explains how a small-town mayor has managed to put this issue on the national, er federal agenda. Here are the key findings of the poll, published in Saturday's edition of Le Soleil (my translation):
54 per cent of respondents chose Mayor Labeaume as "person of the year" [more than three times his nearest rival] The gap is even greater on the question of political person of the year…63 per cent named Labeaume [four times more than his nearest rival]
Speaking of politics, 63 per cent of respondents said they would vote for Labeaume if he decides to run provincially. Half of his supporters hope he would do so as leader of a new party, rather than as a candidate for the Liberals (15 per cent), the PQ (also 15 per cent) or the ADQ (10 per cent)
The bottom line?
Given the state of public opinion elsewhere in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, it won't be easy to find a politically-acceptable way to fund Mayor Lebeaume's arena. But Mr. Harper hasn't seen polling numbers like these since back in the days when Danny Millions was hammering away at him in Newfoundland and Labrador. And we - and Mr. Harper - all remember how that turned out for the Conservatives in the 2008 federal election.