CFL’s $150M assistance request reaching MPs, policy director

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

As Randy Ambrosie prepares to present Ottawa with the CFL’s case for receiving up to $150 million in federal government funding later Thursday, behind the scenes the league’s latest lobbying efforts have been to focus on Members of Parliament with positive connections to the league.

Tuesday, there was communication on the CFL’s behalf with Liberal MP Pam Damoff of Oakville North-Burlington – a supporter of the Toronto Argonauts; then on Wednesday, with Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina. Prior to pursuing politics, Bratina was a distinguished radio broadcaster and was the play-by-play voice of both the Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats over a career that landed him in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Damoff and Bratina are two of the three MPs that have been contacted since the CFL began the process of getting financial assistance from Ottawa. On April 6, four days after beginning the pursuit for federal money, there was communication with Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

While there has been communication with the MPs and also Canadian Heritage, the bulk of the contact between the CFL and the federal government has primarily been with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). There has been communication on the league’s behalf with seven different members of the ministry, although Wednesday may have been most notable when Caroline Séguin, the Director of Policy at ISED, was included for the first time.

Ambrosie, meanwhile, is set to testify Thursday evening at the House of Commons standing committee on finance. The CFL commissioner is part of a panel with those in arts, culture, sports and charitable organizations looking for financial aid from the federal government. The league is asking for $30 million immediately, and up to $120 million more should the season be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is not expected that any decision regarding money will be made Thursday night.

While a well-placed source at the league said, “we are cautiously optimistic” of receiving some kind of government relief, there was also caution. “The reality is: who knows? Things can change quickly,” the source said.

Those working inside football operations departments for teams across the CFL are doing their due diligence to prepare for a September start to a shortened 2020 season, should it even be played. While there are so many logistical, border, insurance, liability and health hurdles to overcome if that scenario unfolds, there is also this: nothing in the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players contains criteria about playing reduced games.

The only model outlined in the CBA, which runs through the end of 2021, is for the standard 18-game schedule. Most team officials believe if the CFL does play this year, it would be an eight- or nine-game regular season.

Ambrosie is the CFL’s only representative on Thursday’s panel between 5-7 p.m. ET. Other organizations represented include the Association of Canadian Publishers, Festivals and Major Events Canada, the Pillar Nonprofit Network, One Voice for Arts and Culture and the Royal Conservatory of Music.


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