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  • Thursday, December 2, 1999

    If Senators go, Alberta teams will be next, says Burke

      VANCOUVER (CP) -- If the federal government doesn't offer some sort of tax relief to the Ottawa Senators, it will start an exodus of Canadian NHL teams, says Vancouver Canucks general manager Brian Burke.

      Senators owner Rod Bryden said Thursday he will consider selling the team to U.S. interests because the federal government hasn't yet offered tax breaks he says are necessary for the club to survive.

      "If something is not done, there's no question Ottawa will go," Burke said during the first intermission of the Vancouver-Edmonton game Thursday night.

      "This isn't someone trying to bluff a hand through poker. The next two teams that are at risk at the Alberta teams. We don't want Ottawa to start a further exodus of teams from Canada."

      Burke was frustrated that federal Industry Minister John Manley said Bryden knew what he was getting into when he bought the Senators.

      "I'm pulling my hair out because I don't understand what it's going to take before people in government understand this is not a theoretical problem," Burke said.

      "It's real."

      The Canadian teams don't want a handout or special subsidy, Burke said, pointing to the tax breaks enjoyed by the film industry and other businesses in Canada.

      Another solution would be diverting some of the lottery money collected through waging on NHL games back to the Canadian teams.

      "They're not direct taxes, they are not coming out of some school teacher's pockets," he said. "It's coming out of voluntarily paid money to purchase lottery tickets."

      The Canucks will pay $29 million in taxes to the provincial and federal governments, plus another $3 million to the City of Vancouver, Burke said.

      While the City of Kanata and the Ottawa region have promised the Senators property tax cuts of nearly $4 million -- with the Ontario government covering roughly half that amount -- there has been little input from the governments of British Columbia, Quebec and the municipalities surrounding Canada's other NHL teams.

      Burke said the Canucks have held initial talks with the local municipal government about some sort of tax reduction, which the federal government would match.

      Talks with the provincial government have been stalled while the ruling NDP party elects a new leader and probably faces an election.

      Burke reiterated that different solutions might need to be applied to the six NHL teams in Canada.

      "We might have different needs than the two Alberta teams," he said. "I'm not sure the same solution across the board is what is called for. It might have to be case by case."
    VANCOUVER CANUCKS



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