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(Jacques Boissinot)
(Jacques Boissinot)

Quebec arena deal hits speed bump Add to ...

So it turns out that Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume won't get his wish - at least not yet.

The colourful Labeaume had been pressing the provincial National Assembly to pass a law insulating the arena management contract his administration signed with Quebecor a few weeks ago from vexatious lawsuits.

Though the opposition Parti Quebecois agreed to sponsor such a bill, it would have required unanimous consent to be tabled given the deadline for private member's legislation has passed.

Independent MNA Eric Caire - and another former Action démocratique du Québec MNA, Marc Picard - have refused to give their consent, so that's it until the legislature opens a new session in the fall.

The move is a repudiation of sorts for Labeaume, who argued that a threatened lawsuit by a former city manager (who is contesting the legality of the contract) would scare off the NHL, which is the subject of a lobbying campaign by Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau to put a team to the $400-million arena that is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The National Assembly machinations won't derail the construction process, but it will give new life to opponents - the provincial municipal affairs department believes that some aspects of the deal may in fact violate Quebec law.

At issue is a legal device aimed at splitting up the various elements of the leasing arrangements - concert promotion, concessions, etc.

Provincial government lawyers believe the arrangement between the city and Quebecor should have been subjected to a public tendering process, and that breaking up the components of the contract is an attempt to skirt that process.

The city's lawyers, unsurprisingly, disagree vehemently, and insist the proposed contract is perfectly legal.

It's not to say that this will end up in court, or that it will jeopardize the arena project even if it does (the province has already committed to funding the project), but it is clearly a short-term setback for Labeaume.

He had cited the need to reassure the NHL about legal roadblocks being thrown up, a la Phoenix.

This isn't a roadblock - after all, the ruling Liberals have a majority and could pass the law next fall if the disagreements can be ironed out - but it's certainly a speed bump that will slow this thing down.

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