This Week: Good news/Bad news

Plus a week in the life of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

Face of the weekFace of the week
Ricky Barnes reacts to his missed birdie putt on the final hole of the U.S. Open. Lucas Glover (right) went on to win the tournament.

Gary BettmanA week in the life of Gary Bettman
The NHL commissioner has had a hectic few days. At the NHL awards in Las Vegas, he addressed player representatives irked by a falling salary cap, shaky franchises and dubious TV deals. Good news came Monday when Chicago businessman Jerry Reinsdorf confirmed plans to bid on the Phoenix Coyotes. But within 24 hours, Bettman found himself trying to broker peace between the two feuding owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Oren Koules and Len Barrie.


Shifting sands
Rising petroleum prices have pumped new life into the Alberta oil sands, and that’s good news for Canada. Yes, pricey oil makes for expensive fill-ups. But Canada needs oil-patch jobs, and with a $50-billion deficit, our government needs the tax revenue that oil sands generate. Moreover, plans to renew the North American auto industry are predicated on the development and sale of smaller, fuel-efficient cars, so pricier gas may prove to be the industry’s friend. If these twin engines of our economy—energy and auto-making—get running again, everyone benefits.

Aiming high
A sweeping proposal from Egypt has the potential to raise talks between Israel and the Palestinians to a new and promising level. Under Egypt’s plan, an end to the blockade on Gaza would be followed by a prisoner exchange between the two sides and the formation of a Palestinian unity government, ending Hamas rule in Gaza. The deal includes safeguards to ensure aid isn’t appropriated by militant groups—a major roadblock to reconstruction efforts in Gaza. The approach may appear ambitious, but it addresses a persistent impediment to deals between Israel and the Palestinians: no sooner have you resolved one irritant than another raises its head, shattering the agreement you’ve worked so diligently to reach.

Tennis is cracking down on screamers and grunters, and thank goodness. Up-and-coming star Michelle Larcher de Brito was told in advance of Wimbledon she could be docked points for the prolonged shrieks she makes when hitting the ball. Occasional grunting may be unavoidable in a sport where a powerful stroke wins games. But tennis legend Martina Navratilova was right to label the excess noise “cheating, pure and simple.” If Martina could win 18 Grand Slam titles without moaning on every shot, the lesser lights can do without it, too.

Cold comfort
After 300 years of Danish rule, Greenland reached a new self-government agreement this week with Denmark, setting the stage for eventual independence. The move brings decision-making on governance and natural resources closer to Greenland’s 58,000 inhabitants, and may indirectly benefit Canada. Ottawa had been at odds with the Danes for years over Arctic sovereignty, and the more Copenhagen loosens ties with Greenland, the more tenuous its Far North claims become. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’d much rather deal with a pragmatic neighbour than with its distant and nostalgic European parent.


Price of war
The Department of National Defence is straining Canadians’ patience and credulity by refusing to release the estimated future cost of its mission in Afghanistan, citing security issues. DND has already said that annual costs in the conflict are topping $1 billion, so how does releasing the projected spending on the conflict in 2011-2012 help the Taliban? More likely military brass censored the information to bolster the security of government, which has already signalled it will pull troops out at the end of 2011. If a change of heart is under way, Canadians have earned the right to participate in the debate. We have faced up to the real costs of the mission: the deaths of 120 soldiers and one diplomat. We have a right to know the price tag. We can handle it.

Pluck o’ the Iris
Iris Evans, Alberta’s forthright finance minister, knows something about raising kids. The former nurse and one-time minister of children’s services raised three sons through financial difficulties. So when she offhandedly remarked that good parenting requires one parent to stay home (at considerable financial sacrifice, she noted), she knew of what she spoke. Evans was expressing an opinion, not setting government policy, but you wouldn’t know it from the outrage. She offered grudging regrets, saying she “would have preferred not to have initiated the debate.” But we’re glad she did, and she owes no one an apology.

Picking your battles
French President Nicolas Sarkozy fell into a familiar trap this week when he labelled burkas “a sign of debasement” and declared them unwelcome in France. Time and again, Western politicians have fuelled Islamic anger by fixating on the personal choices of Muslims rather than what really matters: respect for the rule of law and basic civil rights. Fortunately, Sarkozy counted among the few leaders in Europe who responded forcefully to election-rigging in Iran and the brutal suppression of pro-democratic protestors. That’s the kind of intervention Muslims can use.

Ain’t that American?
Several cities in the U.S. have cancelled Fourth of July fireworks this year because of tight budgets. Regrettably, and perhaps unintentionally, at least one Canadian town has stepped into the void. Officials in Kenora, Ont., located near the U.S. border in the province’s northwestern corner, have decided to bump their “Canada Day” fireworks to Saturday, July 4, saying they hope to boost attendance by drawing in the weekend cottage crowd. Shrewd perhaps, but not wise. No one would consider moving Christmas, so why Canada Day?

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