Feds, CFL in talks for potential support this year: Carr

While the federal Liberal government’s special envoy to the Prairies spent April 29 touting Ottawa’s 2021-22 budget, Winnipeg MP Jim Carr Thursday afternoon said the feds are in talks with the Canadian Football League about a possible funding arrangement this year.

“[Conversations are] ongoing and the relationships are good and the line of communication is fluid. There are a lot of variables out there,” Carr said in an interview.

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On Thursday morning, the Saskatchewan, Regina and Saskatoon chambers of commerce hosted Carr in a virtual videoconference in which he touted pieces of the federal budget and fielded attendees’ questions.

Among the items he highlighted was Ottawa’s $1 billion for Canada’s tourism sector.

In an interview, Carr refuted the suggestion the CFL is an important part of the country’s tourism sector and any money for the league to operate would not come from those dollars. “They’re different issues and different discussions,” he said, referencing the league's funding request to Ottawa last year.

But he hinted there could be, under the tourism file, federal money earmarked for festival activities in the week leading up to the championship Grey Cup game.

“I'm giving you the view from a Prairie guy who understands the importance of that league to our identity and the Grey Cup itself – speaking of festivals – is a major national event that has meaning for a lot of Canadians,” he said.

Part of this year’s tourism funding pot sets aside “$200 million for large festivals,” Carr said.

The CFL did not respond to the Leader-Post's request for comment before deadline.

The nine-team football league asked the feds last year for financial support to help with economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic but was denied. The CFL, which cancelled its 2020 season due to the pandemic, had proposed Ottawa give it either $30 million in the event of a truncated season, or top up that amount to $150 million upon its full 2020 cancellation.

Last week the league said it is delaying the start of its 2021 season to Aug. 5, almost two months from the original June 10 start. It also plans to delay this year’s Grey Cup, to be played in Hamilton, to Dec. 12.

Carr also addressed how the pandemic has killed airport budgets, as consumer airline travel has remained more or less grounded.

He mentioned his government’s bailout loans for Air Canada and Transat – $5.9 billion and $700 million, respectively – while teasing more potential airline support.

“Conversations continue with other airlines,” he said, declining to comment if a deal will happen for Calgary-based carrier WestJet.

“That's being handled by the Ministry of Finance. These are complex negotiations and I’m pleased with where we landed on Air Canada discussions and now Transat.”

— with files from Murray McCormick, Regina Leader-Post

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