a well-timed slash to the ankles

Poilievre is ready to cross check anyone at anytime. He has previously gone after, for example, former auditor general Sheila Fraser, and aboriginals who were abused at residential schools.

This week, he took to Twitter to promote a boycott of Tim Hortons, an unusual attack on a big employer by the employment minister.

Like a lot of what this government is doing these days, that move seems aimed at motivating core voters rather than reaching undecided voters. Not a good sign.

Just as every hockey team needs a cheap shot artist, every prime minister needs someone who can deliver a well-timed slash to the ankles.

But Harper is playing Poilievre as his starting centre, and the poor results are increasingly apparent on the scoreboard.

• Stephen Maher on Pierre Poilievre, federal employment minister and chief spokesman for the Conservative party in the House of Commons, “Poilievre popularity problem bad sign for party,” Postmedia Network, June 8, 2015

game on: when prime ministers attack

harperWe know it’s coming, we just don’t know when. It makes no sense — and that’s exactly why we should be on our guard. Because we can’t wish it away — and we can’t — we’ll do our best to ignore it, but at our peril.

It’s going to be ugly. How could it be anything but? All the more reason we should be bracing for the day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper turns his attention from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to focus on hockey and, specifically, the urgent business of reducing it to a smoking ruin.

Stop in at www.conservative.ca and you’ll find a passion for hockey listed under 10 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER, but it’s never been a secret, has it? That he’s learning to speak Spanish, used to collect coins, and “owns numerous atlases:” that counts as news. “A consummate hockey dad, he can often be seen cheering Ben on at local rinks or joining his son in the stands for the occasional NHL match-up:” not so much.

He published A Great Game, after all, in the fall, a study of antique Toronto hockey arcana, and for anybody who’s saving it up for the beach this summer, here’s the takeaway: denying Mr. Harper’s love for the game would as ridiculous as doubting Riddy Ridpath’s significance to the rise of the Toronto Professionals in 1906.

Still, this is politics, where everything’s written in ice. That deficit you were never going to run? You do what you have to do. A prime minister’s enthusiasms thaw, too. Am I right, Accountability Act? The thing about governing is, there’s no slowing down. Scuttled the National Roundtable on the Economy and The Environment? Great. Bombarded the Parliamentary Budget Office? Congratulations. Backed up the bus far enough to knock down Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, Neil Young, the public service, and the CBC? Nice driving. What’s next?

I think we all know how it’s going to start. On a Friday afternoon, late, in an 800-page omnibus bill called Creating Jobs & Growth While Granting The Beatles Canadian Citizenship & Returning to Balanced Budgets & Yay For The War of 1812. Buried deep within its pages, look for several dense paragraphs halving the size of the puck and eliminating left-wingers.

Next up, over the weekend: a series of attack ads will go after Senators Frank Mahovlich and Jacques Demers, casting doubt on all those Stanley Cups they allegedly won.

Monday morning Pierre Poilievre will be front and centre, taking swipes at Sidney Crosby’s lack of playoff scoring, Carey Price’s rebound control, and Chicago’s zone-entries, all based on taxpayers needing to know whoever elected any of them to anything, anyway? Continue reading

dragging the referee, unassisted, off the ice

politics

Barry Blitt’s illustration accompanied “O Quebec,” Mordecai Richler’s Letter From Canada published in the May 30, 1994 edition of The New Yorker.

Politics and hockey share a season in Canada, and it’s one that fills the entire calendar year. Is it any surprise, then, that their respective languages mingle every now and again? If recent history is a guide, politics tends to borrow more of hockey’s idioms than vice-versa. When was the last time you heard Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice praising his penalty-killers for filibustering Vancouver’s powerplay? Speaking of which: is Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis only proroguing the inevitable by not firing coach John Tortorella right now? Not that the politicians always get their metaphors exactly right.

Several recent cases:

• In early February, federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver talked to CTV’s Question Period about his government’s hopes for a decision from U.S. President Barack Obama on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. “I certainly hope he won’t drag the puck,” Oliver said. “We feel that the reasons to go ahead are very strong, that the environmental issues have been dealt with.”

At least, that’s what CTV thought he said. When @ctvqp quoted the remarks on Twitter, @joeoliver1 was quick on the backcheck:

Actually I said I hope he won’t rag the puck.

Once that was cleared up, journalists were all too pleased to join the rush. Here’s Alexander Panetta from The Canadian Press, dateline Washington:

The Canadian government is asking Barack Obama not to “rag the puck” on a Keystone XL decision. But to hear the U.S. administration tell it, the president doesn’t have the puck on his stick, isn’t anywhere near it, and won’t commit to touching it soon.

Nitpicking Minister Oliver’s comments from a strictly hockey point of view, if we’re going to do that, which we are, here’s the thing: it makes no sense to tell the other team what you don’t want them to do. Don’t rag the puck? You might as well ask them not to bother crossing the blue line and trying for a shot on net. If they’re ragging the puck, they’re doing it to baffle and deny you, throw you off your game, waste the time you need to beat them. That’s the whole point of puck-ragging.

Assuming, of course, that Minister Oliver considers President Obama to be on the other team. I guess we should get that clarified for once and for all. If he thinks of him as a teammate, that’s a whole other problem. Unless he himself is the captain of team to the President’s rookie — Alex Ovechkin, say, lecturing Evgeny Kuznetsov. That would work, I guess.

• Also in February: doing his best to explain changes regarding the role of the head of Elections Canada as laid out in the government’s proposed Fair Elections Act, Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre said that it was important that the referee of elections not wear a team jersey.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was quick to respond: in his view, the bill would “take the referee off the ice,” and might even make it harder for some voters to cast their ballots.

“The only jersey I think I’m wearing, if we have to carry the analogy, I believe is the one with the stripes, white and black,” Mayrand told reporters, who noted his grimace. “What I know from this bill is that the referee will no longer be on the ice.”

Which, of course, the NHL would never allow. Though of course, in a hockey context, the discussion would have been snuffed even as it started. Badmouthing referees is a big no-no, and if Minister Poilievre were a coach, the league would have been slapping a fine on him even as the words were leaving his mouth. Something in the order of $US10,000, maybe, which is what Chicago’s Joel Quenneville was docked in April of 2012 for comments (they included the word “disgrace”) on the refereeing involved when Phoenix’s Raffi Torres hit Marian Hossa? Or what about Tortorella, in his previous job with the New York Rangers, also in 2012: the NHL fined him $US30,000 for his ref-rant that year. Which is not to equate Minister Poilievre and Coach Tortorella: I, for one, have every confidence that the former would have started Roberto Luongo at this year’s Heritage Classic. Continue reading