Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault: Sport Canada does not provide funding to for-profit independent leagues

The CFL may have gotten an answer from the Canadian government regarding financial aid.

Members of parliament convened for the second of four special summer sittings in the house of commons Wednesday, July 22 during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFL had revised its initial financial request of up to $150 million from the Canadian government and the players supported it with a letter. Following detailed recent negotiations with the CFL Players’ Association, $42.5 million was the federal ask for funds that would be used towards a possible shortened season in 2020.

Conservative member of parliament, elected representative for the Saskatoon-Grasswood constituency Kevin Waugh posed the critical question:

“According to recent reports, the Canadian Football League has sent the Heritage Minister a new request for $42.5 million relief package from the government. The money apparently is going to be used to cover player salaries and operating costs. Does the government intend on giving the Canadian Football League this money as requested by tomorrow?”

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault responded:

“We understand that for many Canadians, professional sport is a facet of their daily lives, and we certainly respect that. Through Sport Canada our government funds amateur and youth programs across the country. Sport Canada does not provide funding to for-profit independent leagues or goes outside of Football Canada’s mandate. We encourage organizations in need of assistance to talk to their financial institution and to see what options are available to them.” 

Waugh provided his take on the answer directly afterwards:

“So I take it then, the answer would be no to the Canadian Football League.” 

Following the proceedings in the house, Guilbeault wrote to Waugh on Twitter: “That would be wrong since we are in fact in discussion with the CFL. And Waugh replied: You said in the Chamber that that the government does not provide funding to for-profit leagues and that they should talk to their own financial institution to see what options are available to them.

If Guilbeault and Sport Canada have stiff-armed the CFL, there could be other avenues for the league to obtain government aid for return to play. Manitoba premier Brian Pallister pledged $2.5 million as part of Winnipeg tentatively being chosen as a hub city for the league potentially playing this year.

The CFL’s self-imposed deadline of July 23 for deciding on a condensed schedule or no football at all this year, looms.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.