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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
PM steps into Canada F1 row
Michael Schumacher in his Marlboro-sponsored Ferrari at last year's Canadian Grand Prix
Tobacco advertising has caused Canada's downfall
The Canadian federal government has joined the effort to save the country's Grand Prix - but Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he will not change the ban on tobacco advertising that has led to the race being dropped.

Chretien said that a deputy minister for regional development would be appointed to a committee to lobby F1 teams and officials to keep the race on the calendar.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has dropped the Montreal race because F1's exemption from a ban on tobacco advertising has run out after six years.

F1 teams have been refusing to race in countries that introduce new tobacco advertising bans ahead of the expected worldwide one in 2006.

That is despite there being less races that demand the cars to be free of signage than there were in the mid-1990s.

The move came a day after the race organisers released written proof that Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone told them he was dropping the race from the calendar.

Race promoter Normand Legault revealed last week that Ecclestone had written to him saying the Gilles Villeneuve circuit was being ditched as a venue.

But Ecclestone denied those claims, saying he did not know where the story had come from and that a decision had not been made on next season's schedule.

Now, Legault has published a letter from Ecclestone saying: "We write to advise you the Canadian Grand Prix will not be included on the 2004 FIA Formula One calendar pending the outcome of various issues.

"In the event the Canadian Grand Prix is not included in next year's calendar for next year the provisions of Clause 26.2 (covering anti-tobacco legislation) of the promoters agreement will apply."

There is still a small chance of getting the race back on the 2004 calendar
Normand Legault
Canadian Grand Prix promoter
Legault told the AFP news agency on Monday: "I spoke to him (Ecclestone) on the telephone today and we're still missing from the 2004 calendar."

A local government spokesman said last week the legislation banning tobacco advertising at sporting events would not be changed.

But Legault said he still hoped the race could be rescued.

"I think there is still a small chance of getting the race back on the 2004 calendar," he said.

"That would be if Bernie Ecclestone accepted that the cars would race without tobacco advertising in the race like they do in France and Great Britain.

"However, without that advertising we would have to find (Canadian) $20m in sponsorship from somewhere else."

HAVE YOUR SAY
There have also been suggestions that the tobacco issue is a red herring and that Ecclestone is actually trying to persuade the Quebec government to pay for improvements to the track that the race itself cannot afford.




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