Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Harper Night In Canada

Globe and Mail journalist, Laurence Martin, has written an article on Harper's political prowess with hockey.  Well blow me down!  This is news?  Well, welcome to reality, Laurence.  Wow, a Prime Minister who identifies with the interest of the majority of Canadians!  But it goes waaaaay deeper than that, and Martin misses the boat completely and perhaps sheds light on how out of touch many Ottawa liberal journos like him are with the heart of Canadian pride.

Hear me out.  And it starts with just this last Wednesday in Edmonton.

I was at the Canada vs. Czech Republic World Junior Hockey game last Wednesday.  Taking a cab to Rexall Place, we had to reroute to 118th Avenue instead of the usual back door cab route from 112th Avenue to the Northlands grounds across the LRT bridge to the Northwest corner of the building.  Right then and there I knew it was because the Prime Minister was attending the game and they needed to secure the area. 

At the game, I had an idea where Mr. Harper would sit and about 8 minutes before the game, he quietly sat down in seat 1, row 16 of section 101 with a couple security guys (well at least I saw anyway) around him.  An appropriate and great single seat, but not the best.

I then saw most of the folks in the including and adjacent sections stand and turn their attention toward him.  People began lining up to have their picture taken with Mr. Harper and to shake his hand.  It continued for a while and only a minute into the game.  There were no other people sitting with him.   I thought a local MP or his family would be there.  Nope.  Just him.  During intermissions, the lineups began again and he obliged each and every person until the next period started.  Then, before anyone noticed, near the end of the game, he quietly departed. 

On catching a cab out of the arena, a few blocks later, we were haulted near an intersection.  I noted that there were several police cars blocking the area and knew that it was because of the Prime Minister.  And soon later, we saw about a half dozen vehicles race toward the arena and were then good to go.  I assumed he was then securely taken to his hotel.  I'm not sure if he attended the next game.  I will assume he'll at least attend the final game in Calgary near his home riding, if these juniors do make it to that game.

And what do I constantly hear in the blogosphere and Twitterverse?  Many continue to point out the costs invovled with sending a Prime Minister to a public event such as an international hockey game in different cities.  It's probably thousands for security alone. Not hearing a peep about it in Parliament during Question Period are we?   Is that symbolism of support worth it?  And how different is it for the citizens and voters to see that support at an event of national pride compared to an international conference on climate in la la land about blah blah that will have more of a negative effect on our budget than we realize? 

They fail to see that this is Canada and the heart and soul of the country can be found in the things that we consistently, above all, do well in.  

Our military has been well known for their skill and ability in battle--fighter pilots and snipers are consistently tops in their competitions.  But this truly Canadian resilience goes back to before the formation of the country itself and firmly established in WWI, WWII, Korea, Bosnia, and recently Afghanistan.

That pride of might and resilience continues and maybe, just maybe, is a part of our identity.  And that identity can not only be found in our international war efforts, but in our sport and hockey prowess.  Further to that, but in the many pockets of community throughout our great land, the freedom we enjoy, that Canadianism weaves through the stands of our history.  It's there.  It's not about being a shootoff of Americana, Britainnia, or Francais.  It's a uniqueness found nowhere in the history of modern history and it's something to celebrate.  If you don't see it, no matter what political stripe, or where you came from originally, I see it in the local and national pride of the great sport of hockey.  It is perhaps, why Canada was created in the first place.  We knew we were going to do things differently, better, and for good reason.  And today, to do those very things compared to the Americans, well, all the better.

So fast forward to 2006 in Edmonton... again.

When my fair team, the Oilers, made their run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006 against the Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton became ALIVE again.  After each game won, going to Whyte Ave "the cultural centre" of the city to see fans and families of all backgrounds and culture converge in celebration was something I've never seen.  No one cared what religion, colour, or stripe you were.  You were an Oiler fan.  Period.  

Despite the few rioters and drunken idiots, the far majority were there in pure Oiler pride and spirit for Edmonton and their team. And it was awesome. Cultish almost.  Ryan Smyth was often depicted as a Christ-like figure.  I'm really not making this up, folks.  I saw folks on bongo drums with different cultures doing different ad-hoc dances at the same time with onlookers cheering.  Everyone in harmony and unity.  One of those mini-utopia things, I guess.

I learned more about my city and local human socialogical condition than ever before.  I was it and feeling it unto itself.

Then four years later in Canada itself, in a tight overtime final, a young star from Nova Scotia got a flip pass from a guy from Alberta and history was made.  It solidified Canadian pride once again.

But I will say again, our focus and pride on hockey, I think in some weird way, masks our quiet pride for the men and women in uniform fighting for no other reason than for someone else's freedom.  That's how I feel, anyway.

Despite the supposed progressive mantra of liberal compassion, in their dominant political history they rarely acknowledge the obvious pride I speak about.  We're really a tough and skilled society and the silent majority just elected a Conservative majority that embraces such things.   
 Laurence Martin lists off our "sportless" leaders in a way making it seem like Canadians never expect the Prime Minister to be so in-touch with things as obvious as hockey.  It's almost bourgoise and "hoidy" to expect such a low-class, rough thing as ice-hockey from the top of the class to lead a country.

But you know what?  There is nothing wrong with the leader of any country to attend and celebrate and sit amongst the people, the very sport that gives us such pride.  French, English, Punjab, Chinese, Arab, Hindu, etc., etc., no one gives a shit.  This is about hockey.  This is about Canada.

And to throw in a last minute time out here to tout what I believed years ago and it seems to continue in a subtle way now... even before the Conservative Party was created and Stephen Harper became leader of the fledgling Canadian Alliance, I had a chance to speak to some of his advisors.

I said to them, "When he was running for leader, you guys made a video of him where it showed him for a brief moment carrying his son's big hockey bag, stick and skates down a dungy arena hallway.  I've never seen anything in politics more down-to-earth that speaks to the average Canadian family, French or English, and to our national pride than that.  You guys need to do way, way more of that.  That image was more powerful than anything."

I was looked upon with smiles.  Whatever came of that in feedback from others and in strategy, I don't know.

After that, no such promotional snippet of video I know existed or was seen--no hockey bag Harper was ever emphasized by the party.  Seemed odd to me. 

As opposition leader, he was occassionally reeled in the media as a regular middle-class Tim Horton's dad attending Ben's hockey games.  Then in the 2006 campaign against millionaire Starbucks Liberal Paul Martin, did that Tim Horton's image resonate.  Attack ads showing folks in regular coffee shops ticked off about the Sponsorship Scandal hit home. 

It worked.

Laurence Martin does make the point that not until his consistent appearances at the Olympics, Stanley Cups, and World Junior games, has no other Prime Minister been as recognized and embraced as a Prime Minister by regular folks who identify Canada with hockey as Stephen Harper.

But Martin misses a subtle glaring point that Mr. Harper has been writing his book on the history of hockey since before he was first elected.  It's not finished.  Maybe it will never be.  He's been a bit busy attending games and governing the country, you know.

Much like Nelson Mandela, first president of a post-Apartheid South Africa, who, as we know, used the national rugby team as a source of unity and national pride during the Rugby World Cup hosted there. 

And they won the championship.

And it worked.


Joanne (BLY) said...

Great post! I love first-hand stories - especially those involving our Prime Minister.

E Mac said...

Yep, some folks don't comprehend that the PM is just a regular guy underneath all that politically correct schism.
No matter how good you are, people will try and find fault with whatever it is you are attempting to accomplish.
Reality to them is somewhere in the twilight zone.
Another 3 1/2 years and I predict another majority.
Good for him and Canadians in general.
Give credit where it is due.

Sandy said...

I agree, great post. At its core, Lawrence Martin's attitude represents a culture war. And, as you so eloquently suggest, the turned-up-noses progressive Trudeau-types are losing.

Jen said...

photos of PM at the junior game in edmonton.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets fans as Canada plays the Czech Republic at the world junior championships in Edmonton on Dec. 28, 2011.

Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, edmontonjournal.com

Anonymous said...

But it has to be genuine. When Ignatieff attended a hockey game and
tried to make a photo op out of it, he was booed by the crowd attending the game. Everyone know he doesn't really like hockey and was only doing it for publicity.

old lady

Bec said...

I echo the other compliments posted. This is a wonderful, well written essay on 3 normal hours in the life of a very normal, passionate, Canadian Prime Minister.

In fact, these are the things that drew me to him and why he has my loyalty and support.

There haven't been any PM's in the last few decades that could say they had support from coast to coast to coast. Now there is and he has certainly earned it by being a Canadian for ALL Canadians despite those that think and whine like LM.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! I met Stephen Harper some years ago in our town square.
He struck me as a very much like my neighbors, ordinary, down to earth Canadian.
That is why the chattering classes, media party in this country don't "get" Stephen Harper.
He is not one of "them".
Someone suggested we were shaking hands and meeting the future PM.
Stephen Harper paused for a second, then said that that was going to be up to the voters!
Best PM ever in my lifetime and down to earth Canadian.
Cheers Bubba

Martin said...

Martin seems frustrated that a PM would support hockey through genuine interest, rather than as a mere photo op. Remember the 2010 Olympics when Harper appeared at various events, wearing Team Canada togs, and granting enthusiastic interviews. The Liberals went through a facade of being on the job in Ottawa, ready to work. Iggy did show up at a few events where his appearence looked contrived; and who can forget Jack Layton rudely enbowing a spectator aside when the camera focused on a pub crowd wathing the hockey final. This is but one area where Stephen Harper connects absolutely with Canadians.

Anonymous said...

This honeymoon still doesn't compare to Trudeaumania. Equally dumb though.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Harper is clearly the best thing that has ever happened to Canada politically. He is a good moralistic upstanding man that has true Canadian family values. As Canadians we have been absolutely blessed by having Mr. Harper as a leader.