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The Globe and Mail

Feds rule out changing gas-tax formula to fund Quebec arena

Nordiques ballcaps are lined up on display at a sporting goods shop in Quebec City on Feb. 10, 2011.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government is quashing speculation it might use gas-tax revenues to help cities build hockey arenas.

A key cabinet minister shot down the suggestion, floated this week in Ottawa, that federal gas-tax guidelines could be expanded to help fund sports infrastructure.

Under the current guidelines, gas-tax money cannot be used to build arenas or other sports facilities.

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"We have no plans to change that criteria," Infrastructure Minister Chuck Strahl told reporters in Montreal on Friday.

"It's quite flexibile. It's not infinitely flexible," he added.

That announcement comes one day after Quebec City announced plans to build a new NHL-style arena - with or without federal help.

That doesn't mean Ottawa is completely slamming the door on funding the Quebec arena through some other mechanism. A PMO spokesman explained that Mr. Strahl's comments in Montreal today apply only to the gax tax.

Mr. Strahl told reporters that the gas-tax guidelines already provide cities with enough flexibility in how they spend funds.

Canadian cities receive about $2-billion annually from the federal gas tax, which helps pay for infrastructure such as roads, bridges and water-treatment plants.

"We want it to be used for city needs, and they can set it aside," Mr. Strahl said.

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