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Pierre Karl Peladeau, President and CEO of Quebecor Inc., at the Montreal headquarters of Quebecor Inc., in Montreal, Friday, July 30, 2010. (The Globe and Mail/Robert J. Galbraith).

Robert J. Galbraith

The real cost of a new hockey arena in Quebec City, currently estimated at $400-million, is expected to be known only around the end of the year.

A spokesman for Quebec City's municipal government says work will begin in February to determine whether the $400-million figure cited by Mayor Regis Labeaume is accurate.

Francois Moisan says it will take between six and nine months for the evaluation to take place.

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The provincial government is also studying the price tag, with officials already having noted that Labeaume's cost estimate had a margin of error of 75 per cent.

The arena has become a hot political potato, with the federal government stressing that private-sector money would be a necessary condition for any federal investment in the project.

Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said last weekend he has offered "tens of millions of dollars" to help build the facility, a comment that federal Public Works Minister Christian Paradis called encouraging.

Labeaume is hoping the construction of a new arena will help Quebec City get another National Hockey League team more than 15 years after the beloved Nordiques left for Colorado.

While it might prove popular locally and help the Conservatives retain some seats in the area, any federal funding would carry obvious political risks.

The demand for federal cash for sports teams could quickly spread across the country and create regional grievances in areas that don't receive it.

Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina and Hamilton have all expressed interest in new sports venues or upgrades to existing ones.

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Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government has committed to providing $180-million - or 45 per cent of the $400-million project - and Quebec City has said it is willing to spend $50-million.

When Charest committed the 45 per cent last September, he also mandated Infrastructure Quebec to evaluate the construction costs.

Normand Bergeron, the head of Infrastructure Quebec, agreed last year that such a move was necessary because the cost study Labeaume had in his possession had a margin of error of 75 per cent.

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