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Ontario government not looking to provide CFL with financial bailout

A football with the new CFL logo sits on a chair during a media conference in Winnipeg, Friday, November 27, 2015. The COVID-19 pandemic is creating twice as many challenges for some CFL players. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods.
A football with the new CFL logo sits on a chair during a media conference in Winnipeg, Friday, November 27, 2015. The COVID-19 pandemic is creating twice as many challenges for some CFL players. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

TORONTO – If CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is expecting financial assistance from the Ontario government, it seems he best think again.

Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture, said Thursday the provincial government is not focused on contributing financially to the CFL outside of the 2021 Grey Cup.

Ontario is home to three of the CFL’s nine franchises: the Toronto Argonauts; Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks.

“We are looking forward to Hamilton hosting the Grey Cup in 2021,” she said during a teleconference. “As a result we are committed to supporting that financially.”

“We’re not focusing our attention on providing additional cash outside of supporting the Grey Cup. Our job right now is to make sure there are health-and-safety protocols in place so they get back to training and conditioning and eventually get back into competition.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cancellation of CFL season is ‘most likely scenario’, commissioner says

“At the same time making sure we have a sustainable sports programs from minor sports right on up to pro sports with elite athletes in between.”

Ambrosie is a co-chair of the Professional Sport Council established by MacLeod.

The CFL has asked the federal government for up to $150 million in financial assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league is looking for $30 million immediately, additional cash in the event of an abbreviated season and up to $120 million if there’s no 2020 campaign.

The CFL hasn’t given up on staging a 2020 season but has postponed the start of training camps _ which were to open this month. It also pushed back the June 11 kickoff of the regular season to early July, at the earliest.

However, many provincial governments have said there will be no sports events with large crowds this summer. Ambrosie himself has suggested a more likely scenario is no play for the league this year.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Toronto Mayor John Tory says he certainly can feel CFL’s financial pain

MacLeod, who admitted to being a Redblacks fan, said, “it would be myopic for the federal government to think a national commission should be funded by the Ontario government.”

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“We have not been asked as provinces to step in and make that bailout.”

Bob Bratina, a Liberal MP for Hamilton East-Stony Creek, suggested Wednesday the CFL should work with its nine member cities and six provinces to combine with Ottawa to find a solution to its issues.

MacLeod did say when she meets with her provincial counterparts, they express their concerns about the CFL.

“I think we’re looking for federal leadership on this matter and I’m happy each week to have a conversation with my federal counterpart,” she said.

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