COLUMN

Little Finland, little Canada

Allan Fotheringham December 7 1992
COLUMN

Little Finland, little Canada

Allan Fotheringham December 7 1992

Little Finland, little Canada

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

Since we have just seen our last Grey Cup, it moving to San Antonio or Sacramento next year, it is time to contemplate. Our semi-American Prime Minister is now being emulated by our semi-American Canadian Football League, which feels compelled to commit self-immolation by moving south of the border, where people wouldn’t understand a rouge if found in the soup.

This fits in perfectly with the Finlandization of Canada, a minor blip on the world horizon whose Gross Domestic Product next year will be roughly equivalent to Madonna’s income. Thanks to free trade, the greatest bout of genius ever to spring from the forehead of Brian Mulroney, most of Ontario’s manufacturing base has moved to Memphis, Mobile and Miami.

It is not only the Snowbirds who prop up the economy of Florida when the chilblains set in. The soul of the country is slowly (swiftly?) drifting south, led by the indolence of a government that doesn’t understand.

Canada has always been a Finland, a small nation that has had the misfortune to be hugging the border of what used to be called the Soviet Union. Helsinki knew quite well, as did Moscow, that the Russkies could overthrow the Finland government at any moment by trade sanctions. Moscow, in fact, determined the socialistic content of the Finland government by the constant threat of instant retaliation—closing the border, banning all Finland exports, imposing impossible tariffs. Washington knows, and Ottawa knows, the same obtains here.

Bill Clinton, if he wanted, which he does not, on Jan. 21, the day after his inauguration, could destroy the entire economy of Canada by unilaterally cancelling the Auto Pact, which keeps what is left of Ontario alive by giving it special protection to assemble Japanese cars for shipment to the United States. The Americans know that they hold us by the short and curlies. They proved it, not for the first time, when the dithering John Diefenbaker dithered over the Cuban missile crisis, attempting to prove his manhood by delaying for days—alone among all the other Western allies—his support for

the Washington showdown imperative that Khrushchev had to remove the weapons.

This led to two things. One was the immortal comment of Bobby Kennedy, then the U.S. attorney general, quoting Britain’s Harold Wilson, that “in times of crisis Canada will give you all aid short of help.” The second was that the vengeful Kennedys loaned to Lester Pearson and his Liberals, as the historians have proven, their sharply honed pollsters and spin magicians who helped the Grits to overthrow the ditherer.

The semi-American who is our Pee-Em doesn’t understand the fate of Finland, and doesn’t understand why he is headed for the Dumpster. Much of it has to do with Washington—and the fact that the game of Joe Krol and Royal Copeland and Annis Stukus is headed for Orlando, Nashville and probably Peoria. If it plays in Peoria, it ain’t going to survive in Regina.

Jackie Parker grew up not too far from where Bill Clinton learned his drawl, and is now still an executive in Edmonton, his bloodstream having been adapted to the February breezes, with memories of Rollie Miles and Johnny Bright still in the brain waves of football freaks who are so spavined that they can recall when their heroes actually stayed with one club throughout their careers.

Today, the mercenaries—hello there, Mr. Prime Minister—shop their talents like hookers on the comer pavement, the immensely talented Matt Dunigan now displaying his suicidal gifts with his fourth CFL team, having flitted from Edmonton to Vancouver to Toronto to Winnipeg. Next stop? Chattanooga, Mobile or Little Rock—all probably repositories of the Canadian football tradition that encompassed Russ Jackson and Ronnie Stewart and, god save the mark, Don Getty.

Dief the Chief enticed the Americans to display their muscle, and today they don’t even have to brandish their Charles Atlas biceps. We acquiesce quietly, kicking sand in our own faces. The abject semi-Americans in the Tory cabinet have just folded, to the $400-million detriment of the Canadian consumer, allowing the presciption drug monopolists of this country to freeze out further the manufacturers of generic drugs who can get the stuff into the drugstore much cheaper.

With a brilliance that defies all imagination, the genii in Ottawa have managed a system that allows many American magazines into the country—these guys competing against Canadian magazines that must pay “ the GST—without paying £ the GST. Aside from being 2 the only government in the civilized world that puts a tax on reading, this takes real ingenuity. Our boys have done it.

Forget Jackie Parker and Indian Jack Jacobs (no longer politically correct) and Sam Etcheverry and Angelo Mosca and Willie Fleming and Frank Tripucka, who were Americans who were committed to Canada and the Canadian funny game with the wide field and the extra player. Now, the Canadian game is committed to the exciting concept of Sacramento and San Antonio.

It fits with the general drift of the country, meaning the government. Our airwaves are dominated by American shoot-’em-up junk.The newsstands are dominated by the excitement of People magazine and the veracity of the supermarket tabloids. Now, we’re going to have Canadian football tailored to the needs of Texas and, undoubtedly, Arkansas.

It fits in, all the way, with Ottawa, ruled by a Prime Minister who is wannabe American.