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Hockey probe a new low in Canadian politics

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:20 p.m. May 3, 2007]

Team Canada captain Shane Doan

OTTAWA  — Almost everything that is wrong with Canadian politics and politicians today was on full display at the Commons official languages committee on Thursday morning. 

Ignorance, grandstanding, jingoistic empty patriotism and nonsensical spin was on full display from Parliamentarians as officials from Hockey Canada were compelled on short notice to fly in from Russia to defend the selection of Phoenix Coyote forward Shane Doan as the captain of Team Canada at this year's world hockey championships.

Much of the hearings were televised live on cable news channels. 

It gave any Canadian who cared to watch the opportunity to see what a bunch of politically correct, busy bodies, with a flimsy grasp of the subject matter they are dealing with and a great love of the sound of their own voices that Canadians send to Ottawa. 

All the MPs said they supported Team Canada, yet they had no problem creating this political sideshow to drag the team captain through the mud once again while the players are playing for their country half way around the world. 

Given how foolish the questions some of the MPs asked during the committee proceedings Thursday, it is highly doubtful that many of them are hard core hockey fans who will be checking their Blackberries for updates on the score of Canada's next Group B game against Germany. 

Our elected officials only proved conclusively on Thursday morning just how out of touch they are from ordinary Canadians. Their inability to understand something as basic and Canadian as hockey and how a team captain is chosen raises serious questions about their abilities to deal with any issue of complexity, such as nuclear proliferation or global terrorism.  

NDP MP Yvon Godin seemed very interested in the number of francophone -- not Quebec -- players on Team Canada, which seemed a bit of a tangent to the issue at hand. Perhaps he was trying to find out if the entire national hockey program practised systematic racism (Why isn't Guy Lafleur on the team after all?) or was in need of an NDP-approved racial and linguistic quota system.

An official from Hockey Canada informed him that of the available pool of players whose teams did not make the NHL playoffs "nine or 10" francophone players were invited and not one accepted the offer to play for their country overseas this year for variety of reasons, including injuries and family. But six did the previous year.  

Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez kept pressing Hockey Canada officials about why they were so willing to accept the results of the NHL investigation that cleared Doan of making the alleged anti-French slur against an NHL official when the linesman in question gave a sworn statement to the contrary. 

This is very rich coming from a former youth president of the Quebec wing of the Liberal party. The Liberal party and its MPs spent over a year during the Gomery inquiry telling Canadians to reserve judgement on their party despite witness after witness telling Gomery, under oath, about the lurid details of an elaborate kickback scheme to funnel taxpayer money to the Liberal party in Quebec. 

The sworn testimony of numerous individuals against the Liberal party back then were "only allegations" to Liberals. It would seem Shane Doan, who isn't being accused of misusing taxpayer money, is being held to a much higher standard on the allegations of one person by Mr. Rodriguez. 

Equally embarrassing is that the Conservative MPs on the committee went along and approved this sideshow happening yet are pretending they had nothing to do with it. 

Tory MP Pierre Poilievre said Canadians want to put politicians in the "penalty box" and let Team Canada put the puck in the net. Of course Poilievre's soundbite failed to mention his party and the spineless Tory MPs on the committee unanimously supported the motion to call Hockey Canada officials back from Russia in the middle of the world championships. And since that motion was passed there weren't any Conservative MPs rushing to the media to express their outrage. 

Conservative blogs and websites aren't too happy with Team Tory's complicity in this whole fiasco. Why would the Conservatives do something that would again test the patience of its base less than a week after announcing the infamous lightbulb ban? 

It wouldn't have anything to do with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new plan announced entirely in French in Quebec on the weekend of trying to woo Quebec nationalists to the Conservative family? Harper the hockey dad wouldn't put petty regional politics above hockey? 

Of course not. 

There's a simple logical reason for this, according to committee chair and Tory MP Guy Lauzon. It's all the Bloc's fault and the Tories are powerless to do anything against a party they like to portray as useless during question period every day. 

"I regret that the Bloc played some petty politics by bringing up this issue. This issue didn't have to come to this committee," Lauzon told reporters after the committee hearing.

When reporters reminded Lauzon that his fellow Tory MPs supported the motion, Lauzon said, "Yeah, the committee members voted."

So why are you blaming the Bloc? 

"Because it was their motion that was put there. The truth of the matter is the only way to clear the issue was to bring Hockey Canada to the committee." 

In this new twisted, Tory logic the only way to stop the sideshow was to vote in favour of arranging said sideshow. 

"We're here to support Hockey Canada," Lauzon said, then pausing and adding, "and both official languages."

Witness to all this was Bob Nicholson, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, who delivered passionate defence of Doan, who he described in saint-like terms. 

"We should respect the rights of Shane Doan," Nicholson said. "I've known Shane Doan since he was 17 years old. He's represented our country eight times. He's a Christian."

According to his Wikipedia page, Doan, an Alberta native, expresses "strong Christian values" and his parents operate Circle Square Ranch, a non-denominational Christian children's summer camp and year-round activity centre. 

"I get very emotional because he is a person that we should not be talking about in this way," Nicholson said while defending Doan from allegations he said he believed to be false. 

After the committee hearings ended, Nicholson told reporters that he did not mind having to fly back to Canada to defend Doan. He said it was his job to stick up and protect his players.  

He said he would be more than pleased to come back to Parliament Hill again but this time to talk about something more substantive. 

"I'd love to be here if they were talking about rinks and the need of rinks in this country. It's the biggest issue in our game. We need rinks to be upgraded in this country. We need new rinks so that all young boys and girls get to play hockey.

"I'd love to be called back on that type of issue."

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> MPs crossing the line probing Team Canada captain- Dryden

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