No charges will be laid over lobbying for the Quebec City arena

QUEBEC – There will be no charges laid for illegal lobbying in the case of the Quebec City arena project, the provincial prosecutor’s office announced Tuesday.

It said it’s not convinced it could have obtained a conviction in a case related to alleged rule-breaking in the frantic scramble to win a contract to manage Quebec’s future NHL-style arena.

If charged and convicted, Bell Canada and Evenko, a management company tied to the Montreal Canadiens, could have faced penalties including fines of up to $25,000.

The file was transferred to prosecutors after several organizations had been accused by the provincial lobbying watchdog of either failing to register as lobbyists, or of registering too late.

The Quebecor media organization, which ultimately won the contract to manage the arena, was among several others fingered by the lobbying watchdog. But their names were not among those transferred to the prosecutor because the alleged transgressions were committed earlier and the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

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The province’s commissioner of lobbying expressed his displeasure with Tuesday’s announcement, saying he believed prosecutors could have won the case.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Quebec cabinet minister Sam Hamad conceded there might be cost overruns in the arena. But even if the arena goes over its $400-million projected budget, Hamad said the provincial government would not increase its $200-million commitment.

The arena is being built entirely with public funds, with taxpayers at the provincial and municipal level footing the bill. The federal government, after some encouraging signs initially followed by a lengthy delay, backed away from the project.

Quebec is hoping to bring an NHL team into its future facility, nearly two decades after the city lost its Nordiques.