I came across this odd nugget of parliamentary protectionism courtesy of iPolitics.ca – Peter Julian, four-time elected NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, has introduced “An act to support Canadian professional football,” a.k.a. Bill C-360, a.k.a. the Canadian Football Act.
The bill acknowledges that Canadian football, as played by the Canadian Football League, is an “important cultural industry” that “contributes to the bonds of nationhood across Canada.” Meanwhile, the bill also indicates that the CFL generates “thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity annually…while providing sporting memories and inspirational heroes for millions of Canadian football fans.”
And because of the significance of the Canadian Football League not just to Canadian culture but the Canadian economy, Julian wants to see it protected from the Yankee hordes at the gates (and their Canadian collaborateurs, like the Ford brothers in Toronto Council) who wish to bring the National Football League north of the border.
Julian believes that the incursion of the NFL into Canada would “threaten the continued existence” of the CFL, and that it is in the “national and public interest” that the league be protected by encroachments by the NFL or “any other foreign league upon Canadian soil.”
To that end, Julian is moving through C-360 to prohibit the CFL from “grant[ing] a franchise to any person to operate a football team elsewhere than in Canada,” which is aimed at keeping the Duluth Dock Workers or the Fargo Blizzards from joining the CFL, and to limit any games played outside of Canada to exhibition games only.
It will also prohibit the CFL from authorizing or permitting “a football team within a foreign league or organized or operating outside Canada to play any football game in Canada against any team within the Canadian league, except an exhibition game.”
So the Green Bay Packers couldn’t square off against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a regular season game, only an exhibition game?
Also, you know those regular season games the Buffalo Bills have been playing in Toronto every year to little fanfare and even littler economic gain? They would be gone. And should the league ever think about having the Allouettes play the BC Lions in Tampa Bay, it would have to be an exhibition game.
However, I do think Julian adding the bits about the CFL not being allowed to play anything by an exhibition game south of the border is a face-saving add-on for good measure, to remove the implication that a significant difference exists in quality. But can you see NFL commissioner Roger Goodell begging CFL commissioner Mark Cohon to allow that Lions vs. Allouettes game to happen for the good of the Tampa Bay region?
But the true aim of the legislation is to stop the relocation of the Buffalo Bills, or any other American team playing in the NFL, into a Canadian city, be it Toronto or elsewhere. And the bill states anyone who breaches this law can be punished by fine or imprisonment of up to two years.
And if it all sounds a bit dramatic, that’s because it is – and this is coming from an avid CFL fan, Argonaut season ticket holder, regular CFL reporter, and opponent of the Bills in Toronto garbage so popular with Ford and the folks at Rogers.
This legislation seems to tackle a problem that may not exist. And if it does, it exists largely in the imagination of the late Ted Rogers, and the Ford brothers at Toronto City Hall, none of whom have the power to bring the Bills north, albeit for very different reasons. The issue, so important to the same fans who think sport in Toronto begins and ends with the Maple Leafs, appears to have lost much of its lustre in the past two season.
In principle, despite my poking fun at the bill, I agree with Julian. The CFL is a Canadian institution, and should remain as such. And if expansion should take place within Canada, it should be within the CFL playing the Canadian brand of football. Upon introducing the bill and steering it through first reading on November 25, 2011 (two days before the 99th Grey Cup game was played in Vancouver), Julian had this to say:
What the Canadian Football League does is very important. It has the right balance. It is not multi-millionaires playing, but mainly guys who have worked all their lives, often with other jobs, but through their love of football, continue to push forward and to represent their communities. On behalf of football fans across the country, I am presenting this bill that would allow the Canadian Football League to continue to prosper right across the country for future generations.
And what’s not to agree with? One of the things I love about the CFL is that the players are not millionaires, and hold other jobs. LB Ray Mariuz of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was called out of retirement (he is now a firefighter in Hamilton) to suit up for the Cats at the end of the season due to injuries. He happily obliged. Toronto RB/SB Andre Durie has a full time job with Community Living Mississauga in the off season, and is a spokesman for Autism Ontario, on account of his autistic son. He put in the best season of his career in what was otherwise a disappointing year for the Argonauts.
You don’t have to dig deep in this league to find truly fantastic stories of men who play the game not for the money, but for the love of team sport, the fans, and the CFL. I don’t believe Julian’s legislation is necessary, but if it helps protect the CFL from the likes of the Fords giving the NFL the keys to the city, then I am all for it.