ANOTHER VIEW

1994: a year for bizarre controversies

Jean Chretien’s shucking of the trappings of power will throw hundreds of hairdressers and chauffeurs out of work

CHARLES GORDON January 10 1994
ANOTHER VIEW

1994: a year for bizarre controversies

Jean Chretien’s shucking of the trappings of power will throw hundreds of hairdressers and chauffeurs out of work

CHARLES GORDON January 10 1994

1994: a year for bizarre controversies

ANOTHER VIEW

Jean Chretien’s shucking of the trappings of power will throw hundreds of hairdressers and chauffeurs out of work

CHARLES GORDON

We have already seen the approach of the most peculiar controversy of 1994. There will be others, but nothing will match the argument about sports lotteries and professional basketball in Toronto.

What makes the controversy so peculiar is that no one wants to take sides. That is because there is no right side to be on. If you argue that the National Basketball Association has no right to demand changes in Ontario laws, then you are defending the province’s Pro-Line sports lottery, in which players, if you want to call them that, bet on basketball games, as well as other sports.

If, on the other hand, you agree with the National Basketball Association that ProLine should go away as a condition of Toronto getting a team, then you are allowing Americans to push Canadians around.

Fun, isn’t it, in the ’90s? To make matters more complicated, each side is stressing the huge economic losses the province would have to accept if the other side wins. ProLine raises millions of dollars a year and helps to support hospitals, not to mention grocers and printers and advertising agencies. The NBA team would build its own arena, creating construction jobs, as well as salaries associated with running the team, not to mention tourist dollars.

Two additional elements take the controversy out of the peculiar into the truly bizarre. First, gambling on the NBA is already widespread; every newspaper in North America runs the point spreads every day of the season. Second, the defence of the lottery is by a New Democratic Party government, whose moral roots are in the social gospel and whose founders must be turning over in their graves at the sight of poor people’s desperate hopes being used to finance health services, not to mention the construction of a casino in Windsor. Pick a side, if you dare.

With Ontario Premier Bob Rae’s dilemma

in mind, we can foresee other serious controversies ahead in 1994.

For example, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s well-publicized shucking of the trappings of power will throw hundreds of chauffeurs, hairdressers, pollsters, flacks and flunkies out of work. This, coupled with the well-publicized abstemiousness of the Reform party, will add considerably to the nation’s unemployment problems. The last straw will come when the Prime Minister asks that the driveway at 24 Sussex Drive be unpaved and the windows be replaced by pieces of cardboard. Fortunately, this will create jobs, causing economists to urge the government to hire greater numbers of unnecessary people.

Meanwhile, in dealing with the economy, the Chrétien government will lose its nerve and carry out the economic policies of the former Mulroney government. Interest rates and the dollar will be too high; money spent on job creation will be too low. In order to justify breaking their promises on job creation, the Liberals will cite the deficit, which they suddenly discover is more scary than they thought. They will blame the deficit on 10 years of the Tory policies they are now

carrying out. Unemployment will stay high and the business community will attack the Liberals for not cutting spending further.

That sentiment will be supported by the Reform party and the Conservatives, when both members are in Ottawa at the same time. The Bloc Québécois will be across the river in Hull and unavailable for comment. The NDP’s federal caucus, grievously split on the Ontario lotteries issue, will be unable to formulate a response. The provincial government will begin a lottery, based on the poverty rate. It will be called the Woe-Line.

In other sports news, the National Hockey League will deny that it is tampering with the sanctity of the game in order to attract more fans and more television coverage in the United States. Meeting at Disneyland, the owners will debate a proposal to eliminate sudden-death overtime. Three alternatives to overtime will be proposed:

(1) A shoot-out between the top scorers on the two teams;

(2) Wrestling matches at centre ice between the top goons on either team;

(3) Races, from goal-line to goal-line, between the fuzzy team mascots.

With respect to the last suggestion, the league will debate a vote of censure against two of the teams that lack appropriate mascots, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In the Quebec election, either the separatist Parti Québécois will win, and begin immediately allowing the greater use of English in the province to encourage the tourist trade and investment from the rest of Canada; or the federalist Liberals will win and begin immediately to make nationalistic noises, including a threat to renew the crackdown on English if demands for more power are not met.

In the field of Canadian culture, the federal Liberals will ponder suggestions for improving the situation of Canada’s artists and reject all that involve spending money, blaming the tightfistedness of the previous government for the fact that they have to continue the tightfistedness of the previous government. A proposal that Canadian movies be shown in Canadian theatres will be rejected once again as too exotic.

On a brighter note, a new cultural prize will be introduced, the Golden Fish, given to the member of the arts community who carps most creatively about the winners of other Canadian cultural prizes. A field of thousands will compete.

In 1994, Canada, like Australia, will try to get a debate going on the future of the monarchy. Kind-hearted souls will try to muzzle the debate, saying it would not be nice to give the Royal Family any more to worry about. More pragmatic souls will argue, with greater effect, that it would cost too much to change the stamps. In the end, our ties with the monarchy will be retained, with the clinching argument coming from the Ontario government, which is just beginning Crown-Line, a lottery on the succession to the throne.