Garth Clark

Let’s look at two of the biggest stories in the news today, and see if there are any comparisons between them, and if there are any lessons one side can learn from the other. I’m talking of course about the NHL lockout, and Premier Dalton McGuinty’s prorogation of the Ontario Legislature.

Here’s where the two stories are similar: the billionaire owners of the NHL hockey teams can’t figure out what to do about the fact that no one in Phoenix – or Dallas – or Tampa Bay – or Columbus – want to go to hockey games. They think it’s the players’ fault; that if they were paid less, everything would work out. Daddy Dalton can’t figure out what to do about the fact that Ontario is bleeding red ink. He thinks it’s the teachers and civil servants’ fault; that if they were paid less, everything would work out.

The NHL Players Assoc. (NHLPA) – that is the hockey players – argue that they are only paid what they are offered (in fact Sydney Crosby recently turned down a huge salary increase) by the owners. They were forced into a salary-cap arrangement after the last lockout. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) have said that they have already accepted a wage-freeze. OPSEU members have said that they are willing to negotiate, but don’t want a contract imposed on them like it was on the teachers.

As a result of these two fights the people of Ontario are left with no sitting legislature at a period of great economic crisis and no hockey to watch to take their minds off this period of great economic crisis.

Here’s where the stories differ: the NHL owners, flush with the success from the last lockout, figured they could do it again. Last time the general public – and the media – tended to be on their side in believing that hockey players were overpaid kids. The last lockout forced the players to accept their terms. This time, however, fans and the media aren’t buying it. They realize that the players are only being paid market value, and that the billionaire owners should understand that. It’s not their fault that no one wants to watch hockey in Phoenix. The owners have recently gone back to the NHLPA with a new offer in hopes resurrecting a season that was in jeopardy.

McGuinty also realized that the general public and the media aren’t buying his arguments either; that if his minority government was put to a confidence test, not only would they lose, but that they would be trounced in the resulting election. So, instead of coming up with a better plan, he effectively locked out Parliament for the season.

Here’s what each side can learn from the other: Dalton McGuinty could learn from the NHL owners that lockouts don’t always work, especially if the public and the media aren’t on your side. When the provincial Liberals eventually choose a new leader, and recall the Ontario Parliament, they will more than likely have to deal with a motion of non-confidence, be forced to call an election, and lose to the Conservatives.

The NHL owners could take a page out of Dalton McGuinty’s playbook, and ask Gary Bettman to resign. Like McGuinty, Bettman is the leader of their party, the public and the media are fed up with him…. and he should go.


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