Hold Your Breath, Folks

Hold Your Breath, Folks

Peter Stuart’s take on the new Quebec City arena deal  

Well Alleluia, The City of Québec, the Province, and Quebecor just came to what appears to be a final reckoning regarding the proposed new arena deal. It involves Quebecor upping its contribution in the project, and the two levels of government scaling back some of their commitments, including making the venue smaller, and at a different location, choosing the old horse-race track instead of the previous location nearby at the fairgrounds which was too contaminated. Also some tax savings are to be had out of the deal, reducing the overall cost.


Construction is supposed to start in mid September of 2012 and they are to deliver a building by 2015. Somewhere along the line we have to find ourselves a hockey team. Either Phoenix will have to throw in the towel, or we’ll have to figure something else out. What boggles my mind is just how LONG it’s taken to get us this far, and nobody has dug up a single shovel full of dirt yet to build the darn thing!

As I recall, the Nordiques first left town around 1995 in the middle of a nasty referendum squabble over Québec secession, federal government cutbacks were being offloaded onto the backs of the provinces, with provincial governments everywhere scrambling to figure out how they were going to make the public health and education system function, much less dish out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build arenas so that overpaid jocks could skate around chasing a little frozen piece of black rubber while thousands of half-cut hoi polloi chanted silly things like ‘na na na na, na na na na , hey hey hey good bye!!!’ 

The rest of the electorate would’ve hung the politicians out to dry if they’d tried to finance a new arena in that climate. It would’ve been them that we would’ve been chanting ‘Goodbye’ to! So the post referendum period kind of slowly morphed into the twenty first century. People got over the Y2K scare, the dot com crash of the early 2000 period, secessionist politics cooled off, we got over the hot button issue of municipal mergers in the years 2003-4, which sapped a lot of our energy throughout the province, and pretty soon, what do you know, sports came back on the agenda, especially when political corruption began rearing its ugly head again later in the decade. 

It seems that the more the Liberals got embroiled in all of those construction-related scandals provincially, and the sponsorship scandal federally, the more the citizenry turned themselves away from politics and turned towards mass culture and sports as a sort of ‘opium of the people’, as Marx once described organized religion. Pretty soon all the elite stakeholders, especially the journalists, academics and intellectuals, writers and sundry pundits all began to bemoan the lack of a ‘projet rassembleur’ in the province of Québec, meaning the lack of a uniting or rallying cry of something which would unite us all as one people for a common cause. 

Of course, this was in large part due to the fact that a lot of people were tuning themselves out from politics in general, and therefore from secessionist politics specifically, so the old elite could no longer get any mileage out of that old war horse. People began to become more and more concerned with protecting and preserving their personal standard of living, which, ironically, we collectively as a province, and as a country, had mobilized ourselves so powerfully in the 60s and 70s and before to achieve. 

Now that many had obtained prosperity, it was more a question of ‘well it’s MY money, don’t you dare come and take it away or try and tax it!!!’ They quite readily forgot, or conveniently neglected to acknowledge that their accession to prosperity had come in large part via collective efforts of people acting through the joint efforts of their governments and the legislative processes of said governments. 

So we had to find some sort of ‘flag’ so to speak to rally around. Conventional religion was a non-starter from the get go, at least for now, but mass culture and sport had quickly emerged as the new ‘religion’ around which all Québecers seemed to congregate. So we seemed to have gone that route. 

It remains to be seen, however, just if and when this new ‘temple of the people’ will finally be constructed, and whether it will be built on time, on budget, and without any lengthy union-related labour conflicts or work slowdowns, the likes of which we’ve been seeing on the Hydro-electric and pipeline projects up north. 

Being a native-born Québecer, I really love this place, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I really want my home town to succeed and to thrive as a nationally and internationally competitive city with world-class infrastructure. We just really need to do something to make the climate for business more advantageous so that projects of this sort can move forward more easily without so many obstacles being put in their way. 

We’ve waited a LONG time for this arena project to bear fruit. I’ll believe it when I see the first shovel full of dirt flying! In the meantime, keep up the good work, Messrs Labeaume and Péladeau!!!

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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