Conservative member of parliament Kevin Waugh asked the pointed question many in CFL circles have top of mind.
Waugh had circled the date Wednesday, July 22 because he knew a trip to Ottawa was on his schedule and the CFL needed an answer pertaining to federal financial aid in short order. During a session in the house of commons, Waugh asked: “Does the government intend on giving the Canadian Football League this money as requested?”
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.”
“You can clearly tell it’s nay. I’ve had some pushback from the minister as he said on Twitter to me, ‘that would be wrong, since we are in fact in discussions with the CFL.’ So why didn’t he say it when I asked the question? Does the government intend on giving the CFL this money? Waugh wondered on The Green Zone sports show on 980 CJME radio in Regina.
“I think he had to walk back his statement. I did watch him in the house of commons after that and he left a couple of times. I do think that he may have got called to the PMO office because it was exploding on Twitter that the government in fact was not going to give the CFL a lifeline. I was shocked by the non-response.”
The Saskatoon native has admitted his love for CFL football and felt he was representing the province of Saskatchewan and league overall by posing the pertinent question. The elected representative for the constituency of Saskatoon-Grasswood saw a notification on his phone approximately an hour later from Guilbeault.
“I get this text from him on Twitter: ‘that would be wrong, since we are in fact in discussions.’ Well why didn’t you say that when I asked the question? Waugh questioned.
Waugh stated money may come out of the Business Development Bank of Canada, a crown agency of the federal government. He also shared whether it’s a portion or all of the $42.5 million, the funds would have to be guaranteed by a number of provinces Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. because they have football teams.
“There lies the issue. I also believe they want a guarantee of some sort from the provincial governments and I’m not sure some of them are on board. So is the money going to come from BDC? Which it may. Or is it coming from the federal government? Or is it even going to come at all? The day of reckoning is coming. We’re getting to the short strokes where the CFL is, they need an answer pretty soon,” Waugh said.
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. There are 374 COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, the least of any province which houses a CFL team, it appears to be the safest option for the three-down league.
“I’m not sure now. I’m a little worried about the CFL right now. I’m a little concerned, even the COVID in our country, today in Saskatchewan we had 60 and you see Alberta is up and Ontario is up. I’m not as confident as I was weeks ago, I worry about the league this year, I really do. We know the league is in a ton of financial trouble whether they play this season or not,” Waugh said.
For example the Saskatchewan Roughriders have stated the franchise could lose up to $10 million if the 2020 season is cancelled. It’s estimated the CFL overall might be $100 million in the red by the time the calendar runs out on the current year. Waugh is hoping all levels of government can hunker down and find a way to support the league and get it going amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“You and I and all of us in this country know how important the Canadian Football League is to the institution; to sports; to tourism; to everything in this country,” Waugh said.
“We’ll get through this COVID and then we can go forward for next year because right now it’s one of the best leagues in the world, it’s very entertaining.”