Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault noncommittal about financial aid for CFL

It seems the Canadian Football League shouldn’t be holding its breath for much-needed financial assistance from the Canadian government.

Earlier this month, the league submitted a revised financial request to Ottawa for roughly $42.5 million in aid. In April, it asked the federal government for up to $150 million in assistance in the event of a cancelled 2020 season due the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon-Grasswood) asked Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault if the government assistance was forthcoming for the CFL. Guilbeault didn’t come out and say no directly, but stopped well short of guaranteeing the financial aid.

“We understand that for many Canadians professional sport is a facet of their daily life and we certainly respect that,” he said. “Through Sport Canada, our government funds amateur and youth programs across the country.

“Sport Canada does not provide funding for profit-independent leagues or those 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.”

WATCH | Commissioner Ambrosie said in April CFL ‘very much in jeopardy’:

Testifying before the House of Commons standing committee on finance on Thursday, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated the league could need up to $150 million from the federal government if their season is wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 4:47

That prompted Waugh, a former sports journalist, to quip: “So I take it then, Mr. chair, the answer would be no to the Canadian Football League?”

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association continue to negotiate amendments to their collective bargaining agreement that would allow for a shortened season. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest an abbreviated campaign would begin is September but that a cancelled season also remains possible.

On Tuesday, the CFL announced Winnipeg would be its hub city if a 2020 season were to be held. While that step, along with an amended CBA, would help ensure a return to football in September, the harsh reality is government assistance is critical to the league staging an abbreviated season.

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