SEPTEMBER 18, 2003
What is the situation over Canada?
There have been so many contradictory stories flying around over Canada that it has become hard to tell the truth from the fiction. At the moment Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says he is not backing down over tobacco and Canadian Health Minister Anne McLellan says she has no intention of exempting the Grand Prix from the federal ban on tobacco advertising. McLellan is in no position to do so because Canada only recently signed the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which binds it to the global tobacco ban. If McLellan was now to agree to allow F1 to slip through the new she would face severe criticism both at home and abroad. There is pressure within the Canadian cabinet for a change to be made to save the race but it is very unlikely that the health officials will back down.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, the political minister for Quebec, says that there is still hope that the race can be staged without tobacco branding, despite F1's attitude. This could be achieved by subsidies from the government to the Formula 1 teams to replace the money they stand to lose in sponsorship income but that would probably be seen by many as a waste of taxpayers' money, despite the fact that the event generates an estimated $50m in revenues for the city of Montreal.
The other possibility is that Canada could get back on the schedule if another non-tobacco race such as the French GP is dropped. France is reported to owe Ecclestone $10m in fees from this year's race and if it does not pay there is unlikely to be a deal for next year. It is said that Renault may step in to keep the Magny-Cours event alive but whether that happens remains to be seen.
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