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Bruce Dowbiggin

Captain, My Captain: Lost In Translation

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The Quebec government loves culture regulations the way the Kardashians love publicity. So Bill 69, the latest attempt to shelter the febrile French culture in the province, is heaven sent. (Oops, we used religious symbols.) The latest power grab—announced before the current provincial election— is Bill 96 which would essentially make French the only language needed to work in the province.

In essence, firms will have to show why their employees need to be able to speak English. This being Quebec, there will be a vast bureaucracy to monitor the law. Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce told CBC, ”Are we heading toward a situation where, at any moment, a company will find itself in court because of the use of French or English [at work]?”

Alex Winnicki, co-owner of Satay Brothers, a Singaporean restaurant in Saint-Henri told CBC, ”I can’t believe that this is on anybody’s priority list right now. To hire a French-speaking person in every job in Quebec, I think, is going to make our job market a lot less attractive for a lot of people.”

But jobs have always been subordinate to the cultural struggle in modern Quebec. And, if we can judge by the economic prowess of the PM, few of the province’s deep thinker spend much time on monetary policy either.

Any Anglos truly bothered by this sort of language enforcement left Quebec long ago for more tolerant language climes. The remainder now huddle in the vain hope that, for the first time since the 1970s, the tongue troopers will say, ”That’s enough.” In other words, they’re hoping for a pony for Xmas.

In the midst of this, the current premier of Quebec, François Legault, has resurrected another sacred Quebec aspiration. Legault had demanded that Nick Suzuki, the new captain of the Montreal Canadiens, learn French. Suzuki is from London, Ontario, so it’s a two-fer for nationalists. You get to pander to your base while flailing a unilingual Ontarian for insensitivity in the same move. It’s an old stunt to whip up the sovereigntists and make the captaincy of the Habs a poisoned chalice. (Oops, another religious allusion there.)

Previously this demand that Habs captains speak French was used to flail Finn Saku Koivu in 2007. Koivu had just waged a heroic battle against cancer while contributing to a paediatric unit at a children’s hospital. No matter. Where was the French? Harassed by the nationalist press on why he didn’t speak French, Koivu admitted “In an ideal world, I should also speak French. But I’m not perfect in that sense.”

That wasn’t enough, of course. It was pointed out that Bob Gainey, a star Canadiens player and then GM, had learned to speak French. Of course, he also let future VPOTUS Kamala Harris (then living in Montreal with her mother) babysit his kids, so no one is perfect.  Koivu eventually cobbled together a few sentences en français which he delivered in a suitably penitential voice. Guess what? For a segment of the bleu/blanc/ rouge zealots it still wasn’t enough. “Faire un effort! (Try harder!)”

Defenestrating Koivu was a particularly petty and noxious episode which underlined why many players— including French Canadians— want no part of the Quebec market. It’s hard enough to survive the seven-month grind of an NHL season with its injuries and travel. But satisfying the never-ending cultural charade of Quebec is above any player’s pay grade.

As Suzuki is about to discover. When the story of his unilingualism hit this week even some Anglos were lamenting, “Shouldn’t he be able to talk to the fan base in their native tongue? Isn’t it disrespectful to snub them?” It doesn’t seem to have sunk in that the PR department of the Habs is already charged with communications in both languages.

Suzuki’s job is to lead by scoring goals and preventing others from scoring. In most cities that’s a huge responsibility. In Montreal’s chattering class it’s considered a sideline. The real Stanley Cup is nattering on in two languages to please the suits at UQAM or in Le Devoir.

As for Bill 69, it’s the sort of red meat that used to energize people outside Quebec into protecting the sacred dream of bilingualism. In the past Justin Trudeau’s Daddy believed that everyone should be served in his own language across the nation. Now? His son thinks Canada has dozens of languages and 32 pronouns. So he’s not saying squat.

But the rest of Canadians are now officially bored with the 1990s language narratives that almost tore the nation apart. They see that, with the Family Compact running Canada, Quebec drives its own boat, and heaven help you if you want to ship your products through the province. Even firebrand Pierre Poilievre in his CPC acceptance speech signalled his unwillingness to confront Quebec.

Many, like a former bank vice-president— and Quebec native— we spoke to recently have morphed from defending unity to saying “let Quebec go its own way”. They point to the absurdities of the equalization system— Quebec’s hydro revenue is not counted under the system while the West’s energy is— and shrug their shoulders. They seem to be staying “Let’s make a deal to let them go”.

If only it were that simple. But for those who can’t fathom Danielle Smith’s Alberta Sovereignty project currently being proposed (and reviled) in Eastern Canada, this might be a window into understanding why so many outside La Belle Province are no longer willing to bear the cross (oops, yet another religious symbol) of two peoples’ alienation from each other.

Let Quebec play its interior culture games. Let the West have the Canada back that the Trudeaus père et fils have defiled. It could be a workable friendship.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book of by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

NHL Video Review: You Can’t Handle The Truth

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At a time when the Florida Panthers needed a break in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final Series, they got something more like the Zapruder film. Blurry, inconclusive, dramatic and very, very upsetting. Trailing Edmonton 2-0 before a braying Oilers fanbase, struggling Florida thought they’d scored in the second period to make it 2-1.

Hope of a comeback sprung eternal on the Panthers’ bench. At the Oilers’ bench, however, rookie coach Kris Knoblauch was peering down at something on his digital tablet. Could it be the bang-bang play at the Edmonton blue line was offside? Knoblauch decided to risk it all on a challenge. If he won, Florida’s momentum would be stopped. If he lost, it would be a one-goal Oilers’ lead with Florida going on the power play—the penalty for a wrong challenge.

For the next minutes the NHL video review officials in Toronto pondered the play from multiple angles. In the booth the announcers called it too close to call. Several angles seemed to show the play was indeed offside. On the TV broadcast viewers could see the arbiters of angles cogitating about the call in their studio. Others were not so definitive. Time passed like days, not minutes.

After an excruciating wait, the goal was disallowed, the crowd went wild, and the Oilers rolled to an easy 5-1 victory, tying the Final series and forcing Game 7 in Florida. In your grandfather’s NHL, the losing coach would here have exploded in rage against technology, homer refs and the summer solstice. At first Maurice gave an Oscar-winning performance as the aggrieved coach behind the bench.

Afterward, however, a more-composed Maurice was more sanguine on whether the video system had worked properly. “I have no idea. It may well have been offside,” he told the postgame presser. “The linesperson informed me that it was the last clip that they got where they made the decision that it shows it’s offside. I don’t have those (clips). So I was upset after the call, based on what I see at my feet and what my video person looks at.”

He then explained that he was most concerned by the possibility of a penalty for a failed challenge. “There was no way I would have challenged that if (the situation) were reversed,” Maurice told the media postgame. “There was no way I thought you could conclusively say that was offside. I don’t know what (angles) the Oilers get. I don’t know what the league gets. I just know that (if) I had to challenge that based on what I saw, I would not have challenged.”

Maurice, who’s noted for his wit, then added, “I’m not saying it’s not offside. We’ll get still frames, we’ll bring in the CIA, we’ll figure it out. But in the 30 seconds that I would’ve made that call, I would not have challenged.”
So how to make replay better? Those watching the ongoing EuroCup24 soccer tournament can see that soccer, the most hidebound sports for decades, is using technology to get their byzantine offside rule called properly. In one game, Belgium’s star Lukaku had, not one, but two goals nixed by the technology.

There have been ponderous delays for review, yes, but there is no question that the calls when finally decided are correct. Much like the Hawkeye technology for calling lines in tennis, soccer’s tech is impartial and unequivocal. And it largely removes the tinfoil-hat contingent from spreading conspiracy theories.

Nothing illustrates the schism between the modern hockey fan and the Original Six more than video replay (they dropped “instant” replay for obvious reasons). People born to the digital age see no problem with getting it right, however long it takes. The only thing wrong is that they can’t (yet) control it with a joystick.

Old-timers like the “human element” romanticism of allowing blown calls, like the phantom tag at second base or the football barely crossing the goal line in a pile of bodies. They want the free flow of the game not to be interrupted (unless by a fight). They insist that lengthy delays, like betting commercials, ruin the sport’s purity.

In this they’re like the MLB folks who are still resistant to having their ABS system call balls and strikes. While old catchers and retired umpires wax lovingly about the art of “framing pitches” (translation: tricking umps into wrong calls) the home viewer can regularly see umpires missing 8-10 percent of the calls in a game. Yet commissioner Rob Manfred still drags his feet on the imposition of a system that is already working in the minors.

The reality is that, in this time of betting and network domination, there is no excuse for getting it wrong. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, there is no allowing for doubt when you’re taking hundreds of millions from the betting industry.

So let’s see the NHL introduce an offside technology like that in soccer. Let’s see the NFL install a chip in the football that sends the first-down “chain gang” to oblivion. Let’s see MLB get the calls right. Even if the old-timers can’t stand it.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Debt Pipeline: Canada Is Drowning In Debt

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“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”— The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, 1926

For those outside Calgary, the rupture of the major water-carrying pipe is a local annoyance, divorced from their lives. The fact that it now appears it will take 3-5 weeks to restore normal water delivery in the city— original estimates from the mayor said 3-5 days— is tough luck for inhabitants of Canada’s energy city.

Even that estimate is being treated skeptically by a public who were manipulated and abused by the political structure during the recent Covid years. Testing shows that this same pipe— it’s large enough to drive a car through— has five more “hot spots” that could lead to further trouble. In short, repairing and maintaining the infrastructure in Calgary is going to be a huge investment. Married to the city’s debt crisis, a new transit line and the need for other infrastructure projects it’s daunting.

But it’s not a localized problem. Toronto’s new crosstown subway project is years over budget even as the city punts on repairing / replacing its vital Gardiner Expressway. Montreal’s bridges are a construction meltdown. Vancouver, Edmonton, Halifax— name the city. They’re all faced with crushing repairs while looking down the barrel of the debt gun.

How bad is the debt bomb? The voice on the other end of the line was grave. This retired financial executive says Canada is effectively bankrupt. He’s seen this coming after his almost 50 years in the Canadian industry. A decade of profligate government spending, Canada’s massive debts and electing activist politicians have brought Canada to a nasty place.

The weak spot in Canada’s wall is government debt, he says, and when the inflection point arrives it will happen in a hurry. As Mike Campbell said in The Sun Also Rises about what brought on his bankruptcy,  “Friends. I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too. Probably had more creditors than anybody in England.”

Canada has friends. Allegedly. Successive Liberal governments have allowed “friendly” China to acquire Canadian debt during a period of accelerated buying in the past decade. Meanwhile, China still owes Canada $371 million in loans it incurred decades ago, and it is not expected to repay them in full until 2045.

But recently it’s been revealed that “friendly” China has also been actively interfering in Canada’s elections. It placed spies in Canada’s top-secret biolabs in Winnipeg. It is buying up farmland in PEI and other Canadian provinces.

That has left Canada’s PM, the one who said he admired China’s ability to get things done outside democracy, stammering and obfuscating. He knows that in his current predicament he can’t afford to rile the Chinese, who blithely let Canadians die of Covid-19, a virus they spread to the world.

Already, Canada pays C$46 B a year to service its debt, more than Ottawa expects to spend on childcare benefits ($31.2 billion) and almost as much as the cost of the Canada Health Transfer ($49.4 billion). Hard to believe Canada’s GDP per capita was actually higher than the US. Now, there is a $30.5k USD gap.

Should China decide to push the go button and pull back its bond paper in Canada, the result, says this executive, will be seismic. To rescue a credit-choked economy interest rates could jump back as high as the 18 percent rates of the 1980s. To say nothing of boosting personal tax rates. In case you’re part of the Denial Squad, here’s the take governments exact at the moment. Think they can take more?

NL – 54.8%

NS – 54%

ON – 53.53%

BC – 53.50%

QC – 53.31%

NB – 52.50%

PEI- 51.37%

MB – 50.4%

AB – 48%

YT – 48%

SK – 47.5%

NT – 47.05%

Not good. Canadians who think the warning signs will give them time to adjust are badly mistaken. Paraphrasing the words of Mike Campbell, the long debt descent will happen “suddenly”. Within 48 hours of China (or any other Canadian bondholder) employing the poison pill much of Canadians’ savings will be wiped out. The real estate market— which is the default savings account for millions— will implode.

You won’t hear any this from finance minister Chrystia Freeland who claims her debt-financed spending (based on international comparisons) shows Canada with the lowest level of debt in the G7. But the Fraser Institute points out, “By using net debt as a share of the economy (GDP), Canada ranks 11th lowest of 29 countries and lowest amongst the G7. By using gross debt as a share of the economy, Canada falls to 25th of 29 countries and 4th in the G7”.

If you don’t like statistics you can always just pop down to the grocery store to check out how $4.99 blueberries cost $7.99 now. The debt crisis should lead the newscasts each night. It will when reality strikes suddenly. But for now, Trudeau’s purchased media are more interested in Pierre Poilievre fear stories and TikTok videos of cats.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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