Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

With the NHL back on the ice, why not let Chinese taxpayers subsidize Canada's billionaires?

| January 7, 2013
Conceptual drawing of the Great Leap Forum by Dave Cournoyer.

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It's a moment of such perfect convergence that it's astonishing Alberta's Wildrose Party, which last week proposed paying for professional sports arenas through the risky tactic of encouraging vulnerable citizens to gamble, didn't think of it.

I speak, of course, not of the imminent return of the National Hockey League but of the strategy used to good effect by the Communist government of the People's Republic of China to woo countries with resources the Chinese covet. To wit: building sports stadiums.

In what has been termed "stadium diplomacy" by the authors of a new book on Chinese trade policy, according to a review quoted recently on blogger Dave Cournoyer's Daveberta.ca site, "dozens of 'friendship stadiums' are presented as gifts to countries around the world."

So why not let the Chinese build sports palaces for Calgary and Edmonton?

Surely this is a better plan than letting the Wildrosers implement their dubious scheme of exploiting the gambling addictions of mostly poor and prodigal Albertans to build the plush arena Edmonton City Council wants to give drugstore billionaire Daryl Katz, lest he move the Oilers hockey franchise to Seattle or wherever. Something like this must be done, they claim, to avoid the thing they fear the most. To wit: a tax increase.

What's Calgary got to do with this, you may wonder? Well, it's the iron law law of Alberta politics: If Edmonton gets something, Calgary must have it too. This long march of public cash generally moves only from north to south.

Regardless, we can all be certain that with the NHL lockout now over, pressure on Canadian taxpayers to build new rinks, and the threats of what will happen if they don't, will increase exponentially and immediately.

So, getting back to the main point: Talk about the planets all being in alignment! Consider these convenient -- and entirely verifiable -- facts:

1)    Edmonton is desperate to build a new arena, and will do anything or tax anyone to get the money it needs -- anything, that is, except ask the guy who will benefit from the facility and keep all the money it generates to contribute very much.

2)    Katz, for his part, is desperate to have his Oilers play on a luxurious new sheet of ice -- leastways, desperate enough to threaten to move them to Seattle if he doesn't get his rink, although not so desperate, apparently, to pay for it himself.

3)    Huge numbers of Edmonton civic taxpayers are desperate to ensure that their municipal taxes don’t increase any more than they're already going up. A similar number seem desperate for their neighbours to help pay for a new home for their beloved hockey club.

4)    Alberta's governing Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Opposition don't agree about much these days, but they are in accord that they are desperate not to be seen giving provincial money to this project. They are also both desperate to sell Alberta’s rapidly devaluing bitumen abroad.

5)    The federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is increasingly desperate as well to sell Alberta bitumen to the Chinese government, having already approved the sale of large Canadian companies to the Chinese, surrendered huge chunks of Canadian sovereignty to their Communist government and pretty well gutted our environmental protection regime to grease the skids for these shipments and sales.

6)    Finally, the Chinese Communists are desperate to get their hands on resources like Alberta's, and they’re known to be willing to build hockey rinks and the like to get what they want.

With all this desperation going around, if this isn't the perfect setup for both Alberta and professional hockey, with something to please absolutely everyone, it's hard to imagine what would be.

Even Katz should be delighted, surely, as long as someone else picks up the tab for his rink -- although he might be less so if the Chinese demand naming rights for the new arena as befits their status as one of our leading corporate bosses, not to mention, for the next 31 years or so thanks to Harper, our new colonial masters.

Just the same, even if Katz objected, the Great Leap Forum has a nice ring to it! As would, say, the Red-Maple Leaf Gardens or the Iron Rice Bowl for Calgary.

And it's not as if we Albertans have nothing to contribute to this deal. Maybe now is the moment for the Oilers to work out some of the kinks that have accumulated during their long stretch of idleness by extending some international friendship and solidarity to the China Dragon -- China's only professional hockey team, which still languishes winless the cellar of the Asia Ice Hockey League.

Canadians love hockey and we’re constantly told we need to look for markets in Asia. For heaven's sake, what are we Albertans paying former PC leadership frontrunner Gary Mar to do? Professional hockey opportunities must abound in a country of a billion-plus people -- not to mention numerous terrific locations for Tim Horton's franchises! (Yìzhí xīnxiān! Yìzhí Tim Horton!)*

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communists who covet our energy resources will finally get a crack at our bitumen while we Albertans can judge the sincerity of their slogan: "Wei renmin fuwu!" (Serve the people.)

So who could find fault with a win-win proposition like this?

I mean, I suppose we could do something truly revolutionary and ask the guy who stands to benefit the most to put up a fair share of the cash. On second thought, that would never fly in Alberta.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

* Warning: I used an Internet translator. This could mean anything!

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Comments

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