Montreal mayoral candidate says no public cash for future MLB team

Montreal Expos fans hold up signs during a Toronto Blue Jays Grapefruit League game. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

MONTREAL — The North American-wide debate over who should pay for professional sports stadiums entered Montreal’s mayoral race on Wednesday.

Valerie Plante, the leading candidate vying to replace Mayor Denis Coderre, said public money shouldn’t be put towards building a stadium for an eventual return of the Expos, the city’s beloved Major League Baseball franchise that moved to Washington at the end of the 2004 season.

She said Coderre is ready to give a "blank cheque" to the future owners of a Montreal-based MLB team.

Plante said if elected, she’ll take the question to citizens before offering a dime of public money.

"We aren’t against the return of a baseball team to Montreal," she said. "Rather, we are against wasting public funds and the lack of transparency that characterizes Denis Coderre, who seems ready to give a blank cheque of public money without citizens having a word to say about it."

Coderre has positioned himself as the city’s number-one baseball fan and publicly champions a return of the Expos.

In his first mandate as mayor, he travelled to New York to meet with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and has been at the centre of the public discussion over the eventual return of the team.

In response to Plante’s comments, Coderre told reporters now isn’t the time to talk funding for a stadium. He’s said the public debate will be had once the team’s return is finalized.

It is unclear how Montrealers will react to financing a stadium, especially since Quebec City continues to wait for its NHL expansion franchise two years after the completion of a $400-million arena paid for with public money.

The debate over financing professional teams has also hit Calgary’s mayoral campaign.

Negotiations recently broke off between the city and the owner of the Flames hockey team, after two years of discussions over a financing plan.

Montreal’s municipal election is scheduled for Nov. 5.