|I don't think this team will be winning any Stanley Cups|
I am reading with interest the discussion over federal financing of a proposed new
hockey arena. At the announcement, several Conservative Party MPs showed up in old Quebec Nordiques sweaters, which connected the subsidy to Quebec City NHL and thus raised controversy in a way that money to rinks in Sainte-Rita QC, St Georges QC, Normandin QC, Bedford NS, Burlington ON, and 440 other projects of Canada’s Economic Action Plan did not.
Though the main issue is being framed as one of fairness to all Canadian regions with sports facilities that serve professional sport franchises (mainly National Hockey League and Canadian Football League, cities (see here for an editorial overview), I would argue there is a more deep-seated historical antipathy at work as well. In 2000, John Manley, then Minister of Industry, learned that, despite Canadians’ love for the national game, they do not want to use their tax money to support
Since after the Second World War, Canadian governments have supported rink building at the “community” level without much controversy. But “community” is a category that apparently excludes big cities, unless the community is a national one, such as hosting an Olympic Games (see the Big Owe). Even then, the support tends to be municipal and provincial. Where governments are reluctant to contribute is when the facility is mainly for the benefit of a professional sports team. And here I mean “professional” – a characteristic of the players – and not “commercial” – a characteristic of the clubs. Support for facilities associated with junior hockey clubs in
The lack of Canadian support for this aspect of the hockey business seems paradoxical given the general sense that Canadian government is more interventionist than American, and more willing to directly support business. (This is a big generalization, but no time to discuss here.) In sports, this is not the case. In my work, I have argued that the Canadian support for sport is mitigated by an ambivalent relationship with business in general, and this is reproduced in attitudes to the hockey business. The
Whenever state funding for arenas comes up, I think of my favourite character from the
It says something about political change when the current Conservative prime minister, who is noted for his neo-conservative small government ideology, seems to be considering such support. Of course, times have changed. Beginning during the Second World War (as I illustrated in a chapter of this book), and accelerating in the 1950s and 1960s as Canada started losing in the international arena to state-supported soviet republic teams, the welfare state increasingly understood it to be its responsibility to address what was essentially a private sector failure. There were other issues as well, including sport and youth development, but we can’t underestimate the role of criticism of the
On a personal level, since Lester Pearson’s criticism of the
In other news: More evidence of the circularity of history. With talk of the resurrection of the Nordiques comes criticism of les Habitants as the federalist team.