Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced $35.7-million in funding for historical and archeological projects in Quebec City, while opening the door to further federal funding for a tall-ships regatta that will stop in the city in 2017.
Mr. Harper, who hopes to win back seats in the provincial capital in next year's election, said the federal government will help to restore the old city's historic walls and two architectural landmarks. The money will go to refurbish the 400-year-old fortifications ($30-million over six years), the Dauphine Redoubt that is a part of the Artillery Park ($4.5-million over three years) and Maillou House that was built in 1737 ($1.2-million over three years).
Mr. Harper said the funding is linked to the upcoming celebrations of Confederation's 150th birthday in 2017, but is also part of his long-standing efforts to promote Quebec City's historical role in the creation of Canada.
"We are not only in the presence of bricks and mortar, these walls are also part of the soul of Quebec City, Quebec and Canada," Mr. Harper said. "Infrastructure like this can be a powerful reminder of our past, and it demands preservation, especially in light of the upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation."
The Prime Minister's announcements came a few weeks after his government was widely panned in the province over plans to remove the name of Samuel de Champlain from a major bridge over the St. Lawrence. The government backed down and decided that it will keep the Champlain name on a new bridge that is being built in Montreal.
The Prime Minister reiterated his hopes that the rusted Quebec Bridge, which is owned by CN, will be repainted with the help of $100-million in public funding, including $75-million provided by the federal government.
"I'm telling CN that when you are based in a city that is recognized by UNESCO [as a world heritage site], it's essential for CN to take its responsibilities," he said in answer to a question from the media. "I think that everyone should and will continue to keep up the pressure on this front."
The Mayor of Quebec City, Régis Labeaume, was present at the announcement that is a key part of the Conservative Party's strategy to win back seats that were lost to the NDP as part of the 2011 Orange Wave. Mr. Harper regularly travels to Quebec City to make funding announcements, usually with Mr. Labeaume at his side.
"We have to believe in the history, the heritage and the culture of this city, thank you Prime Minister," Mr. Labeaume said.
The mayor highlighted his positive working relationship with Mr. Harper, and praised the federal government for helping former governor-general Michaëlle Jean to become the head of La Francophonie.
Mr. Labeaume has much sway over the electorate in the city and his support could help the Conservatives in the next federal election. But Mr. Harper refused to be drawn in to partisan speculation.
"I always love to visit Quebec. Obviously we have lot of support here, but I will leave the 2015 elections to 2015," he said.
Plans for a tall-ships regatta in 2017 would see 40 vessels making stops in cities throughout the Maritimes, and then gather in Quebec City for a week of festivities. Mr. Labeaume has called the event the main priority in his dealings with Ottawa, and organizers are hoping that the federal government will pick up a portion of the estimated $10-million budget.
Mr. Harper stated that he is well aware of the project – thanks to much lobbying from Mr. Labeaume – but added that "not all decisions have been made."