Archive | February 2014

Team Canada players should give bonus money to charity

With apologies to millions of Canucks still basking in the golden glow of a smashing Team Canada victory in Sochi, there’s something unsettling about hockey players with multi-million dollar contracts getting $20,000 in Olympic bonus money.

Collectively, Team Canada players will earn at least $145 million this year in the NHL. That’s a mind-boggling sum that is almost impossible for the average person to comprehend. As a basis of comparison, Team Latvia’s payroll was less than a million dollars and several team members would consider $20,000 a good yearly income.

Of course supporters will say “they didn’t have to go to Sochi” and they weren’t paid extra for their heroic service to the country’s national ego. But really, whether they played overseas or not, they were still collecting sizeable NHL cheques.

It just doesn’t seem right on so many levels. Canada’s most decorated Olympian, Clara Hughes, an outstanding humanitarian and advocate for amateur sports, donated her $10,000 Olympic bonus for winning a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games to a charity. And she wasn’t earning a seven figure salary.

I really don’t understand why Canadian Olympic organizers decided in the first place to include NHL players in the bonus program. I’m certain if they left them out players would have shrugged their shoulders and wouldn’t have given the matter another thought. I also believe many never expected to be paid.

In 2010 the payments stirred controversy, with Canadians on both sides of the issue wading into the fray.

I really don’t know why the national media has been so slow to ask the obvious questions in the days following the Sochi Games.

What’s holding them back?

Are reporters on the hockey beat afraid of losing access to their meal tickets during the NHL season and playoffs?

Last time around Sidney Crosby, earning $8.7 million a year, donated his bonus to his charitable foundation in Nova Scotia. His donation was matched by a corporate sponsor, so a $20,000 donation actually levered another $20,000 – all for a good cause.

Now $500,000 may not seem like much, when you compare it to a Team Canada payroll of $145 million, but consider the financial and logistical support Olympic athletes receive.

Half a million dollars, with matching corporate donations, could accomplish quite a lot for a struggling program such as luge, whose athletes came tantalizingly close to winning bronze medals, racking up a string of close fourths.

That program could lose much of its funding before the next Olympics because luge athletes came home empty-handed.

NHL players, to be fair, are perceived to be more generous than their counterparts in other major North American sports.

But it would be nice to actually hear they are donating their Olympic winnings to good causes.

American hockey, for instance, got a tremendous PR boost when members of Team USA’s men’s hockey team arranged to adopt and fly back stray dogs wandering the streets of Sochi on their own dime. Many of those dogs were in the cross-hairs of authorities who wanted them killed.

There are any number of good causes that could use some promotion, a spark of welcome publicity.

It’s a terrific opportunity for Team Canada players to burnish their reputation and it would make that Olympic glow much brighter for all Canadians.





Why not appoint Sochi goal post to the Red Chamber?

By now every Canadian with a pulse or who hasn’t been living under a rock has thrilled to the story of how our plucky gals pulled victory from the ashes of defeat in the gold medal hockey game against their arch-rival USA.

But all the heroics, the tying goal in the final minute and the overtime goal that sent the country into delirious spasms of joy (heck it even had Rob Ford leaping to his feet half a dozen times) would not have been possible without the miraculous intervention of a lowly, unheralded goal post, which stopped a clearing pass from entering the empty Canadian net. An inanimate object, strangely resembling our prime minister, prevented a 3-1, soul-crushing loss to the hated Yanks.

We, all 35 million of us, owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Sochi goal post.

So why not pay it back for its invaluable service? Why not get Stephen Harper to appoint it to the Senate? After all the Russian goal post, admittedly non-partisan in its political views, has made a much greater contribution to Canada’s well-being than many of the dozens of  stiffs Harper has appointed over just the past couple of years.

There would be any number of benefits to the appointment that may not be immediately obvious to Canadians ticked off at the scandals swirling in the sober chamber of second thought. For instance, the inanimate piece of metal can be counted upon to stay rooted to Ottawa. And it wouldn’t go off script or develop a backbone at inconvenient times, which, unfortunately, can’t be said of other Conservative senators.

The Sochi goal post would also give much shorter speeches, wouldn’t fiddle travel expenses and would not have a problem fulfilling residency requirements. It ain’t moving from the Red Chamber, unless someone picks it up and carries it out.

And, as far as I know, inanimate objects don’t require any food or liquor and won’t book business class flights. I’d imagine most flights would be coach or even better, cargo.

Really, the optics would be much, much better for our embattled PM and his party, which continues to slip in the polls.

Imagine, if you will, an entire Senate filled entirely with metal goal posts.

Wouldn’t that be a vast improvement over what we have right now?

But Harper better act soon. If he waits too long Justin Trudeau might upstage him.




A late winter melt

A late winter melt

Snow melted rapidly throughout PEI in late February, including this parking lot in Kensington, prompting many Islanders to hope spring was drawing near.

Snowshoeing with the dogs

Snowshoeing with the dogs

Mary Ellen Gaudet, who lives in Stanley Bridge, brought her dogs with her on a recent snowshoe hike in the area.

Potato industry will get deep water wells

I take no pleasure from this, but I’m predicting the Ghiz government will approve a request from the potato industry to lift a long-standing moratorium on deep water wells.

It’s inevitable it will happen, given the way everything is lining up. For instance, the provincial Liberals didn’t reject the application the moment it had been made public, as they should have.

You’d have to be a shameless Pollyanna to believe the spud growers won’t get what they’ve asked for.

PEI is fortunate to have something many other jurisdictions in North America can only dream about, a plentiful source of water for homes and agricultural operations. But with global warming accelerating, including the melting of Arctic ice far faster than many scientists thought possible only a few years ago, that embarrassment of riches will trickle away.

Islanders have a chance to tighten water conservation measures now, before we are forced to bring in drastic measures that will prove a terrible hardship for agricultural operations and all Islanders.

In California, source of much of Canada’s fruit and veggies in the winter months, historically low rainfall will likely lead to skyrocketing food prices for most Canadians. That state’s agriculture industry is teetering on the brink of disaster and there is simply not enough water to satisfy industry or residential users. Do we want to face that same prospect when the worst can be averted, just by taking steps now while water supplies remain plentiful?

If the Island’s Liberal politicians feel they must do something for the struggling agricultural sector why not offer subsidies and tax breaks for improving water conservation? Don’t give them more water now or they will only increase their demands many fold later.

Anyone with a private well is already worried about rising nitrate levels from farming operations. Now is not the time for a progressive, forward-thinking government to reward an industry that has done little to curtail its consumption of a precious resource that is getting more precious every year.

But of course the Liberal government has already flown the white flag by acknowledging the need for a “debate” on the issue, giving themselves the political cover they need to soften the blow.

I hope my bleak assessment is wrong, but everything points to a “Yes” from Province House. The first of many surrenders to come.


The mystery of the moving bench

A park bench that had been placed in a riffle in the Dunk River, at Breadalbane, two months earlier had been mysteriously moved to a snow bank next to the stream by early February. Another bench in the same riffle was buried under a blanket of snow and ice.

Why not turn the Senate into an echo chamber?

Sometimes the solution to the thorniest of dilemmas, the most intractable of problems, can seem deceptively easy.

Take the Senate for instance, home of disgraced denizens Pam Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Mike Duffy.

Last week I dropped by my usual hangout in Stanley Bridge for a cup of coffee and a dollop of village gossip.

A member the “Stanley Bridge Council”, one of the regulars who shows up nearly every day just to catch up on the scuttlebutt, asked why prime ministers have to keep appointing stiffs to the Red Chamber – party hacks, bagmen and ne’er do wells who always seem to become a liability to the governing party. He questioned why they had to appoint anyone at all.

Now, really, can it be as simple as not appointing senators to fill vacancies in the 105-member chamber?

But think about it. Senators have to retire by the age of 75.

And many senators are less than a decade away from mandatory retirement, several much closer.  Just imagine if Stephen Harper had restrained himself and not appointed 59 yes-men and yes-ladies in one fell swoop?

Why the Red Chamber would be an echo chamber by now!

And that’s without re-opening the Constitution or holding expensive, fiercely partisan elections that only end up turning voters’ stomachs. Of course there is no party better at slinging mud than the Conservative Party of Canada. I and probably millions of other Canadians would appreciate not having a barrage of hate literature finding its way into our mailboxes during Senate elections.

Really, all Ottawa has to do to get rid of the useless appendage known as the Red Chamber is to let the damn thing wither away.

Stephen Harper can start by refusing to fill the nine current vacancies and whenever a reporter questions a future prime minister about the glacial pace of appointments, he or she could say with a straight face: “I’m working on it. These things don’t happen overnight and I’m busy sorting my sock drawer. Ask me again in about a year or so.”

I don’t think too many Canadians would be upset with that response.

Just think, no more spending and residency scandals. Just because senators are no longer around.

Just let the Senate fade away.

And don’t even bother administering the last rites.