It is a joyous time to be a hockey fan in Las Vegas and a bitter disappointment to be one in Quebec City. For the latter, the opening of the new Videotron Arena with the acquisition of Quebecor as team owner could not have been timed worse coinciding with a deep drop of the Canadian dollar to only ¾ of its previous value at par with its American counterpart. Had the NHL announced expansion a few years ago and had the new arena been built then, the Quebec Nordiques would already be facing off with the Montreal Canadiens. Now with Canada’s uncertain economy, Quebec expansion is being put on hold – indefinitely.
There are many factors which have been responsible for this sad state of affairs, but the probable main reasons are three:
1. The NHL’s greedy expansion fee.
2. The imbalance of the two NHL conferences.
3. Corruption in Canada and Quebec.
This topic merits many more articles. I have already written many articles on this blog about the ugly impact of the NHL’s excessive terms. Briefly, the large expansion fee scared away almost every potential investor and left the NHL as a laughingstock, with the first “big 4″ expansion with no competition between rival cities. Even with just the Las Vegas expansion, the league is still imbalanced. It was reported many times that there were four “done deals” including Quebec ready to join the NHL. Probably what Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors had envisioned was Quebec City and three western cities, Las Vegas, Seattle, and probably Portland or Houston would join the league in two years time, balancing up the conferences and realigning the league to an NFL structure. More about these factors need to be written.
But it is the last factor that is the subject of this article. Once the Canadian dollar radically diverted from the value of its American counterpart, expansion to Quebec City was placed in grave jeopardy. Why is the Canadian dollar down? Why is there a third main factor?
I have used the term “corruption” in articles before in reference to the health care industry’s attempt to conceal a cure for coronary heart disease and its impact on the NHL playoffs. But for this article, corruption is playing a part in bringing down the value of the Canadian dollar.
First it has to stated that the fall of the Canadian dollar is in part caused by factors beyond the control of the Canadian and Quebec governments. The Saudi Arabian Government and governments of other middle-Eastern oil producers decided that they wanted to put certain competitors out of business. They started over-producing oil in such quantities that gas prices are severely down and economies like Canada’s which was primarily dependant on the sale of Alberta oil took a severe pasting. Over-produced oil was the direct reason that the Canadian dollar fell.
But that in turn raises the question about why the Canadian economy is so dependent on oil sales? Why when just one part of the economy ran into severe problems was there nothing to fall back on? Canada is the second largest country in the world in area. Surely with all the resources it can muster, problems with one small but important sector of the economy should not cause the Canadian dollar to lose nearly one quarter of its value.
The Canadian dollar has been down at this level – even worse before. When the recession of the early 1990s occurred, the Canadian dollar fell below 70¢ American and stayed there. It was this factor coupled with the rise of players’ salaries and the inability to build proper arenas, that caused the departure of the original Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets. The Canadian dollar remained in its low state and seemed destined to stay there forever until the United States elected George W. Bush to be President. Bush’s imperialistic policies wrecked the American economy and forced down its currency to be par or lower with the Canadian dollar. The Obama administration has more or less kept the same course. What is important for this article is to note that neither the Canadian Government nor any Provincial government did anything that brought its dollar back to an even keel with the American one.
There have been successful instances of reform in Canada, but mostly at the municipal government level. There was the clean up and build up of Montreal by mayor Jean Drapeau in the late 1950s and 1960s. There was the forced merger of Toronto and its suburbs by the Ontario Provincial Government around the same time that started Toronto on its boom period. But there has been no comparable reform movements at either the provincial of federal level. There is no Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, or Harry Truman in Canadian history.
It has been noted by this author in articles both on this blog and on others of the elitism in Canadian society. Canada has been run on policies to suit its ruling cliques. As noted in many previous articles about the history of NHL Canadian expansion, it has been the policy of Canadian owners in the NHL to keep Canadian franchises to a minimum. The value of the Canadian dollar is a direct reflection of the policies of these elites.
Elitism is no stranger to Canada. It has been around since the days of New France when society was firmly divided into classes, the government officials and seigneurs at the top, and the habitats at the bottom. The British conquest of 1760 more or less kept everything in tact only adding an English version to Upper Canadian society. Things got so bad that two rebellions against elitist government broke out in 1837.
Elitism is by no means gone from Canadian society. Almost every job I would have while I lived in Canada would be tainted by it. There was always someone or a group of people who deemed that certain of their fellow employees were not “good enough” for them and then set out make their lives and employment as miserable as possible. I would quit the one job where I was making the most money I would ever make in my life because an abusive employee made work impossible to continue and I would see similar things done to others over and over again. I would work in government departments where one group of employees took control of all social activities and even made sure that only similar thinking individuals would be hired to perpetuate their monopoly and control.
The ugliest incident I would see occurred after I left Canada, the death of Rehtaeh Parsons who was judged by her fellow classmates to be “not one of them” and then subjected to rape, torment, and humiliation until she committed suicide. And who can forget Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, blamed for his own death by Canadian officials at the Vancouver Olympics despite protests from experienced lugers that Canada had built an unsafe track. In both cases no punishment was handed out either to Parsons’s tormentors or the designers of the luge track.
More tangible is the recent announcement by the Ontario Government that despite the 2015 Pan American Games coming in over-budget, all promised bonuses and perks would still be honored. The Ontario Government itself has undergone a radical transformation during the past decade. It has lost its triple-star credit rating and because of many expensive scandals, now receives subsidies from the Federal Government. Ontario, once consistently the most wealthy province in all of Canada, who subsidized all the poorer provinces, is now a have-not province. As for the Province of Quebec, they have been getting Federal subsidies since before I was born. They have never pulled their own weight.
Of course it is ridiculous to insinuate that the death of two people causes a country’s economy to collapse. What is important is that they are up-front symbols of elitism and its policies. It is beyond my knowledge to know exactly how an economy works but such incidents grouped together add up to a perception that a country is not what it should be and it should not be “valued as an equal”. There are probably too many other similar incidents in contemporary Canada to count. And the perception of that country counts in the value of Canada’s currency.
One of Canada’s hockey myths is that Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL is anti-Canadian which is complete nonsense. In 2010, Bettman made a tour of the three cities that lost their franchises in the 1990s, and stated the terms for readmission; good ownership, a proper arena, and an adequate fan base. He would not open the door to Quebec and Winnipeg again if he was anti-Canadian. More importantly he cannot offend important friends and contacts like the Quebec City mayor or the Quebec Provincial premier. And above all, he wants to be favorable to valuable investors like Quebecor, especially since the rest of the business world has told the NHL with its excessive entry fee to take a hike. Make no mistake, Bettman wants Quebec City back in the league.
But no matter how sympathetic Gary Bettman, or any of the NHL Board of Governors may be, neither they nor Quebecor itself is going to commit economic suicide. Gary Bettman cannot save a country from itself. Making the reforms needed to raise the Canadian dollar probably might offend certain of the elites that run Canada and this the Canadian Government and any Provincial government refuse to do. And so the NHL will not expand to a country that refuses to do anything to improve itself.
Still worse is what could happen in the future. In 2000, the Americans elected a President who wrecked the American dollar. But now in 2016, there are rumblings that Donald Trump might win first the Republican nomination and then the presidency. Once in power, what if Trump – or for that matter Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton – implement policies that strengthen the American economy and dollar? Then the American buck will climb against other currencies, including the one north of the border which has several governments that do exactly nothing to help themselves. What could happen, a 50¢, even 40¢ loonie? That could be serious enough to not only prevent NHL expansion to Canada in the near future but even threaten the existence of the current Canadian NHL teams.
Quebec City with good ownership and proper arena is a virtual winner, one of the better franchises in the NHL. So would a Hamilton team, a second Montreal team, and maybe even a regional Saskatchewan team. But because of corruption in Canada that keeps its dollar at a distance from the American one, such Canadian NHL dreams may never occur. What once seemed a sure thing may have completely disappeared.