The initial commitment of $1.5 billion for sports infrastructure has shrunk to just $300 million over 10 years.
In September, in the middle of the election campaign, the CAQ made a commitment to build and renovate sports infrastructures with an ambitious program of $1.5 billion over 10 years. “The largest project in the history of Quebec” in this area, noted the party of François Legault.
Arenas, swimming pools, multisport complexes, tennis courts, water games or gymnasiums were targeted. The projects selected by municipalities, schools and NPOs had to incidentally be funded at 66% by the provincial government, up to a maximum of $10 million.
Except that if the government of François Legault has kept its promise for tax cuts – which has monopolized a good part of the attention – that of the “largest project in the history of Quebec to renovate and build sports facilities » went by the wayside.
The initial commitment of $1.5 billion dwindled to just $300 million over 10 years, or $30 million per year; a fraction of what was put forward in the election campaign. “It is clearly insufficient in relation to the needs. The promised sum is cut in five. If I transpose that to the local scale, it would take 33% of the Quebec budget for a single infrastructure in Gaspé. Our chances are getting slimmer and slimmer of having the required financing. We’re going to have to work extremely hard on the file, both for the arena and to enhance this envelope,” explains Daniel Côté, the mayor of Gaspé.
Remember that in February, the City went to tender for its new arena, a project that has been in the pipeline for several years now. It could cost around $15 million to build. In the hypothetical scenario where Gaspé gets the lucky ticket, it is one of the selected projects and it gets 66% financing, it could get the maximum of 10 million. This is one third of the annual envelope. Nonsense for Daniel Côté.
” That does not make any sense. There are no other amounts earmarked for this type of infrastructure in the budget. Nor is there an enhanced general infrastructure fund. From the start, what we appreciate about the Legault government is that it respects its commitments, but in this case, honestly, I don’t understand it. We can no longer shovel forward. »
The latter refers to the dilapidated state of the current Gaspé arena, built in 1967, which uses freon as a cooling gas. “We’ve been patching for years, but there are limits, hence the importance of having provincial money. We’ve hammered it to the winds. We’re going to have to tackle it, it’s more and more untenable, ”adds Daniel Côté.
The promised $1.5 billion would certainly have allowed for a good update of the province’s sports infrastructure. The previous Financial Assistance Program for Recreational and Sports Infrastructure (PAFIRS) launched in 2019 contained an envelope of $294 million, with provincial and federal funds. The requests had just reached 1.5 billion. In Gaspésie alone, cities like Gaspé, New Richmond, Paspébiac and Chandler had been refused for various sports projects.
In its budget, the CAQ points out that certain previous infrastructure projects are currently experiencing significant delays due to the challenges encountered in the construction sector.