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Water Today Title March 17, 2018

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Update 2017/12/19
Formula Electric


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By Cori Marshall

The Montréal e-Prix has been controversial from the beginning. Local business owners were unhappy with the requirements the race put on their operations, and residents had to put up with the nighttime resurfacing work of René-Levesque Boulevard. Given the full range of public opinion and that 2017 was a municipal election year the race became political.

Mayor Valérie Plante campaigned promising to have the FIA event moved from the downtown streets. The most obvious choice for the new venue would have been Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, the track used for the annual Grand Prix du Canada. This option was ruled out because of a $50 million upgrade to the paddocks on the site.

On December 18, in a press conference, Mayor Plante announced the decision to cancel the race, ending the city's association with electric racing.

The recently elected Mayor said that there was "an enormous problem in the search for sponsor and subventions." The new administration discovered that an "important deficit was planned for from day one," she added. It was also suggested that the previous administration was fully aware of the issues.

    "It was clear as early as May 2017 that we were heading for a financial fiasco."
    Valérie Plante, Mayor Ville de Montréal
Despite the fact the event was heading for financial disaster the decision was made to hold two races "each costing $1 million," Plante said.

"The consequence of all this was the non-profit organization Montréal c'est électrique, the promoter of the event, was already in a liquidity crisis and was taking from the line of credit that it was given from the Ville de Montréal," Plante underlined.

When the new municipal administration took over in November, they began to tackle the F-e issue. Plante said that the "first decision that was taken was to limit the Montréal c'est électrique's line of credit to put an end to the haemorrhage." The sum was limited to $9.5 million.

The Mayor noted that the organization has been able to "pay local suppliers and levy different subventions, [...] we expect that $1.6 million will be put back into the coffers by the end of the year."

    "Despite almost completely using the line of credit Montréal c'est électrique has $6.2 million of unpaid bills."
    Valérie Plante, Mayor Ville de Montréal
The announcement was not without its political undertones, "this situation is due to the improvisation of the previous administration, [and their] irresponsible financial planning, which was doubtful and disconnected," Plante said.

When the new administration met with all of the stakeholders in an attempt to relaunch the event it was ready to go down one of three avenues. "Move the race to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, build a temporary track elsewhere in Montréal, or to suspend the race for one year," Plante explained.

The F-1 track was ruled out last week, "the construction of a temporary track would require a considerable investment without solving the financial problems of 2017 and ensure long-term viability," Plante said. The one-year hiatus became interesting at this point.

The pause would allow the City to "rework the present business model, which is not viable while trying to find an acceptable site," Plante explained.

"The representatives from Formula-e categorically rejected this option," Plante said, "the had to be confirmed by February 2, an impossible deadline." She added that "there was a gap between the two positions, we did our best to bridge the gap, but it did not work out."

Formula-e told the current administration that "they couldn't bridge the gap for 2018 because they were accountable to their stakeholders," the Mayor reminded them "we are accountable to the people of Montréal."

The City's financial contribution to run the race in 2018 would have been more than what was spent for the inaugural edition. "Montréal c'est électrique asked that the line of credit be increased from $10 million to $15 million, and the direct contribution would go from $1.75 million to $2.25 million," Plante said.

She explained that "other levels of government would have to increase their contributions as well."

    "A Formula-e race in Montréal in 2018 would cost between $30 million to $35 million, you have to draw the line the Formula-e would not return to Montréal under these conditions."
    Valérie Plante, Mayor Ville de Montréal
For all the talk about a new venue and financial pitfalls, there was no talk about the old site. Was the former site even a possibility for 2018?

According to Marc Pichette, a Senior Director Public Relations and Promotions for CBC/Radio-Canada "no official request was made to CBC/Radio-Canada for the use of our site to hold the future Formula E events. Accordingly, no thoughts were given to whether or not we would permit such use for future events."

It appears as though the race would have been without a home in 2018 anyway. Given that part of the venue will be the future site of the new Maison Radio-Canada, the Montréal e-Prix may have been doomed as of July 30.

The press conference offered no indications of what the penalty would be for cancellation. More information on the demise of Montréal's e-race will be brought to light when Montréal c'est électrique's report is made public.

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