(This column was published in the North Shore News on Feb. 27, 2002)

 

The Olympic spirit works at many levels

By Leo Knight

You create your own history. You make your own destiny"

 

- Wayne Gretzky to Team Canada in the dressing room prior to the Gold Medal game at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

 

What a ride!

 

The Salt Lake City Olympics may be over, but it will be hard to beat them for the joy, the drama, the excitement and, finally, the celebration this country had with both hockey gold medals. In the afterglow of the victory, as I sat down to cobble together a column, I had a few random thoughts to share.

 

On Thursday night, I was watching the women's gold medal hockey game with a business associate in Calgary. While my associate is British, he was amazed at the atmosphere in the pub. The place was electric, hanging on every pass, every play for our women.

 

On Friday, sitting in the Calgary airport, crammed into a sports bar, watching the Canadian men kick the stuffing out of Belarus, I met a man who runs a Home Depot store in Calgary which employs Danielle Goyette, one of the veterans on the gold-medal winning women's hockey team.

 

Now it's easy to be a little cynical about the corporate sector and how they are profit driven, especially if one listens to the rhetoric from those bully boys in the B.C. Fed. And certainly, Home Depot did advertise throughout the Olympics touting the Olympians who work for the company. But what the advertisements did not say, I learned in speaking with store manager Ray Cyr in that airport bar.

 

Home Depot Canada supports the athletes by paying them a full-time wage and only requiring them to work 20 hours a week, thereby allowing them the time to train, at full pay, with the national team in their various sports. They don't simply use the athletes to help promote their business.

 

But they support the Olympics in the true spirit of sport. Cyr also has an American athlete on his staff who trains for her sport in the Calgary Olympic Park.

 

To demonstrate his devotion to our Olympic athletes, Cyr had with him a framed Olympic silver medal from the Stockholm Games in 1912. His grandfather won the medal in cycling. Cyr had taken it from its secure lockup on Vancouver Island to his northwest Calgary store. He wanted to show it to his Olympian employees in the hopes of inspiring them.

 

It would certainly seem that old medal still has some magic in it.

 

It was heartening to see the celebrations nationwide. Even in Montreal, they partied all along St. Catherine Street, at one point commandeering a bus. People climbed all over the inside and outside of that bus in celebratory exuberance. One doubts PQ Premier Bernard Landry would feel too confident seeking another separation referendum until all this national joy wears off.

 

The prime minister said, following the game, that hockey unifies this country like nothing else. I suspect he is accurate in that statement. Pity there's no one in his party who could do the same.

 

When the game and the celebrations were over, I poked through the Sunday North Shore News. The line story was headed "Legal aid cuts to hurt most needy."

 

It was a little disconcerting to read the rhetoric being spouted and quoted in the story about how the program cuts would "hurt the most vulnerable . . . women, the impoverished, the elderly and children."

 

It seems no matter how the provincial government does, attempting to undo the damage done by a decade of NDP incompetence and corruption, they are hurting women, kids and the elderly. Are the left so utterly stupid they cannot come up with a decent argument supporting their positions without resorting to nonsensical scare mongering? Do they think the rest of the population is so stupid they believe this stuff time after time?

 

The reality is the cost of legal aid has more than tripled in the past 10 years. Tripled!

 

It's not hard to figure out where the problems lie, either. For example, 10 years ago there was only a trickle of people coming to our borders claiming refugee status. This year we can expect over 50,000. And all are eligible for legal aid. Which is, I might add, usually accessed after the system has decided they are ineligible for status here. Then they tap into the unlimited resources our nutty system allows them, to fight and appeal for years.

 

All on the public dime.

 

Premier Campbell can't change the nutty immigration laws in Canada, but he can determine what legal aid funding is used for and how much money his government will allocate. And that is what he has done. The bulk of the legal aid funding goes towards criminal defence funding and that has not changed one iota.

 

But I guess reality has difficulty creeping in among the rhetoric.

 

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