The leading candidate to own a new National Hockey League team in Quebec City says he's not willing to spend a dime on building a new arena in the provincial capital.

Pierre Karl Peladeau, the head of the Quebecor empire, says a new arena in Quebec City is a vital first step in the process of bringing the NHL back to the city for the first time since the Nordiques packed up and moved to Colorado in 1995.

But people should not expect him to pitch in for the new building.

"The rules of the game have already been clearly indicated by the league, (NHL commissioner) Mr. (Gary) Bettman was very clear on the issue," Peladeau said Thursday at a news conference announcing the launch of Videotron's new wireless telephone service. "He said if there's no arena, then there would be no team. It would be impossible for us to conceive of making an investment of that nature knowing that bringing the team here, paying the players on the team and running the team is already a significant contribution."

Quebec Premier Jean Charest confirmed earlier this week that the government will be willing to foot up to 45 per cent of the construction costs for the new arena, initially estimated at $400 million.

That $180 million commitment in addition to the $50 million committed by Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume means there's a $170 million shortfall left to make up.

Both Charest and Labeaume are hoping that will be filled by the federal government, especially after comments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper stating how much he would like to see the return of the Nordiques to Quebec City.

But the subject remains a touchy one in Ottawa, and also in the rest of Canada.

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz is trying to build a new arena to house his team, and there is some grumbling that if Ottawa throws money at the Quebec City arena it should do the same for Edmonton.

Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said Thursday that he feels provincial cash is better spent on more pressing priorities such as education and health. Stelmach said any financial aid from the province will go towards infrastructure to provide roads and access and that money for a new building will have to come from private sources.

Harper's Conservatives hold only 11 of the 75 seats in Quebec, but most of them are in the region of the provincial capital. The Conservatives have already been accused of showering their own ridings with an inordinate amount of economic stimulus money.

On Wednesday in Ottawa, the idea of throwing federal money at the project appeared to make several Quebec Conservative MPs uneasy. They said following a caucus meeting that the government is still studying the proposal.

Afterwards, a handful of Conservatives did not take part in a group photo of several MPs wearing the old Nordiques jersey.

With files from Canadian Press