Playing for partisan points during pandemic is pointless

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The worst political press release to ever find its way to my inbox came last year during the Toronto Raptors historic playoff run.

The Raps were headed to the NBA finals and the whole country was united behind them.  It felt like this great moment when people from all walks of life, all creeds and colours, all political stripes, were suddenly on the same team, all pulling for the same thing.  It was a wonderful moment of togetherness, but someone had apparently forgotten to tell the Ontario NDP.

Because on the eve of the first game of the finals, the New Democrats issued a press release blaming Doug Ford for the high ticket prices to the game.  It was an absurd leap or partisan posturing.  Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in the world.  It also has some of the worst sports teams in the world.  It’s been almost three decades since the Blue Jays had a whiff of that rarified World Series air, and the Leafs are a perennial playoff disaster.

The Raps finally gave Toronto sports fans something to be excited about and ticket prices were always going to reflect that.  Like it or not, playoff tickets for any major Toronto sports franchise are always going to be out of reach for the average person.  The Air Canada Centre during playoff season is now the exclusive playground of the rich and powerful.

That is unfortunate, but it is certainly not Doug Ford’s fault.  Ford can control the price of playoff tickets about as much as he can control the weather.

“Ontario families deserve better than to be priced out of watching their local sports team,” wrote NDP MPP Tom Rakocevic in this ill-conceived press release, which his party was tangentially connecting to Ford through some vague, unenforceable, feel-good proposed legislation that would have attempted to cap the resale value of tickets, but would have done nothing to actually make playoff tickets affordable for the average family.

It was very much a failure to ‘read the room’ and realize that the middle of the Raps joyous playoff run was definitely the wrong time to sling half-baked partisan barbs.

The tiresome knee-jerk partisanship that permeates every facet of politics has become par for the course, but there are a few instances where that kind of rhetoric just doesn’t land with the general public.  The Raps playoffs run was one such occasion; this ongoing pandemic appears to be another.

With everything going to hell in a handbasket, people really just want to see their governments working to make things better.  That’s why the politicians who have dropped the us-vs-them schtick are doing so well, while the ones still clinging to partisan politics are floundering.

The contrast between Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford during the pandemic has been a pretty clear example of what people want, and what they don’t want, from our politicians these days.

For his part, Doug Ford has entirely dropped any partisan bickering.  He’s making nice with politicians of all stripes, and people love it.  The Toronto Star published an entire, glowing story on his newfound friendship with Liberal MP and deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland.  During one of his daily press conferences, a reporter asked Ford about one of his old favourites, the carbon tax, practically begging him to take a swipe at Trudeau.  But Ford wouldn’t bite.  He dismissed the question and moved on.

Can you imagine a pre-coronavirus Ford passing up the opportunity to prattle about the carbon tax and toss a jab Trudeau’s way?  No way.  Yet, these days he’s staying focused on real work, not scoring partisan points, and people are loving him for it.

Now, contrast that with Andrew Scheer, who seems to still think his primary job during the pandemic is to take increasingly weak pot shots at Trudeau, and the results speak for themselves.  Scheer’s fortunes are sinking rapidly.  Calls for him to step aside are growing.  And all because he is unable to do what Ford did, and simply let the political partisanship slide during the pandemic.

There’s a lot of things people do care about right now, like paying their rent, keeping their families healthy, and finding toilet paper for sale at a reasonable price.

At this point though, people don’t care which team our politicians are playing for, we just want them to play like the Raps did last year and get the job done.

Photo Credit: National Post

More from James Culic.    @JamesCulic

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