When I was a boy, we often played street hockey outside our duplex. We had a lot of fun, and made a lot of noise shouting to and at each other. One of the bigger kids broke a neighbour's garage window with a slapshot one day, so we all took off, and only owned up after we realized denial of our guilt would be impossible. After that, we moved games to a nearby dead-end street where none of us lived—so we could be as noisy as we wanted, since we didn’t know any residents.
It’s only in recent years, as a homeowner with my own kids, that I’ve become mindful of things like property damage, the danger of adolescent boys accidentally thudding into child bystanders much smaller than themselves, and the other perils that accompany unsupervised, high-energy activities. That’s why, while my heart sided with a Hamilton father who appeared in court last week to defend his son’s right to play street sports, I understood why the neighbour who complained to police about that activity had done so (page 11). (The charge was dismissed, on the grounds there was doubt as to whether the father and son, who had been tossing a football back and forth, were in fact doing so on the street at the time of the complaint.) There are probably millions of sports fans, myself among them, who were glad the courts didn’t rule against street sports—but that ruling didn’t, and shouldn’t, mean a free pass to tramp all over neighbours’ property.
From there, we segue to another recent fuss—over political patronage in Ottawa. The common thread linking both issues is the sense of entidement among key players, meaning kids playing street sports and Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano and his aides, who are alleged to have routinely pushed executives at a Crown corporation
to grant jobs to their friends (page 12). In the first instance, it’s understandable that kids look at the world in terms of what suits them, without much consideration of the greater good. As they get older, if their parents imbue them with a proper value system, they learn that their own wants may not be compatible with those of a larger world, so they learn to compromise. That means, for example, they may play street hockey only at certain times, or try not to shout so much, or stay away from the part of the street where elderly people live.
In short, you can make excuses for kids in such circumstances, but not for those federal Liberals who seem to presume that government exists primarily to suit them and their friends. Gagliano, who acts as Jean Chrétiens Quebec lieutenant, has been involved in a series of such controversies. But when you hear calls from opposition MPs (and some Liberals) to sack Gagliano, remember that he’s been doing what the PM himself has done on occasion, such as when Chrétien lobbied the federal Business Development Bank for loans to be given to supporters of his in Shawinigan with questionable credentials.
Every time this issue comes up, the Libs respond that since no one has proven they’ve broken any laws, that means they’ve done nothing wrong. That response evades the real issues, which are that they have a responsibility to serve people other than themselves, and they’re supposed to be setting ethical standards, rather than abusing them. Say this about street sports: kids, unlike the Libs, sometimes don’t know any better—and are much more likely to eventually behave.
firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on From the Editor
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.