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Canada and Other Matters of Opinion [Paperback]

Rex Murphy
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"Wit, sarcasm, humour, verbal gymnastics . . . are here, together with some surprising post-scripts added with the benefit of hindsight. . . . Murphy begs — eloquently, of course — to be read."
— The London Free Press

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Rex Murphy, who needs no introduction, left his outpost home in Newfoundland to attend university at the age of fifteen. Since that time, which includes a spell at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, he has been writing and talking. His skills in that area have made him one of Canada’s most-watched and best-read commentators, while his speeches have earned standing ovations from coast to coast. A frequent presence on CBC television and radio, including a regular commentary spot with “Point of View,” Rex writes a weekly column for The Globe and Mail.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I had not realized how fervently Toronto is a hockey city. The air here was electric with hope for the beloved, hapless Leafs. The dismay following their elimination from the playoffs was palpable. Lord Stanley's cup will grace another city's parade.
But time is a great (actually, the only) grief counsellor. So I guess it's both safe and tactful, from my perch in this city of cruelly procrastinated dreams, to speak of Don Cherry, arbiter elegantiarum of Hockey Night in Canada, sage of Coach's Corner and straight man for Ron MacLean. He is much in the news; there is talk that his days as the iconic resident of Coach's Corner may be coming to an end. He is also, I gather, by some weird extension of the Canadian bilingualism statutes, under some sort of review. The Commissioner of Official Languages is offering her scrutiny to some of Mr. Cherry's obiter dicta.
A strange thing, for a language commissioner to be analyzing the analyzer of Coach's Corner. I'm not sure what business the nation's bilingualism monitor has with the Plato of the playoffs. Whatever Don Cherry- or his faithful dog Blue, for that matter- may be doing, they are not unravelling the two- languages concept.
Parliament, even in its most liberated or unhinged deliberations, did not contemplate the commissioner's office evolving into a freelance inquisition for the furious beadles of political correctness. If this nation is in jeopardy of fracturing, look not to Coach's Corner. Try the sponsorship program.
But it is neither of these matters that has brought the familiar image of the natty, high- collared Homer of hockey onto the front pages and television screens of the country. It is, rather, an active courtship from the newly minted Conservative Party to enroll Mr. Cherry as one of its candidates. I would like to see him in Ottawa in a three- way faceoff against Richard Mahoney and the resuscitated Ed Broadbent. The inevitable candidates' debate would earn higher ratings than the Olympics, and certainly more drama.
But it cannot be. First, because Mr. Cherry has been reported as saying that he has been too long with hockey-I'm paraphrasing here- to dwindle into politics. I agree with him. From Coach's Corner to Question Period would be a subtraction of the great man's zest and energy, and a brutal contraction of his public influence.
Nor, should the Conservatives win, does the thought of Don Cherry at the cabinet table, trying to refashion Stephen Harper into a reasonable facsimile of Ron MacLean, offer the mind any peace. In any case, politics is a tepid stew of compromise and euphemism, a nest of affectation and posturing- all genetic antimatter to His Outspokenness.
No, I applaud the Conservatives for their nerve and originality, and Stephen Harper for being man enough to contemplate his own eclipse, which would have been inevitable should Mr. Cherry have yielded to the party's entreaty.
I think the time is ripe for a different thought, not original with me, though I have brought it up before.
The co-governor generalship of Their Excellencies Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul is moving to its flashy close. An eager and anxious nation awaits a worthy successor. These are large, well- heeled and splendidly itinerant shoes to fill.
Well, Don Cherry is the obvious, the blatant, choice. It was said of Diana, that most melancholy of Cinderella-celebrities, that she was the people's princess. I do not think of Mr. Cherry as a princess, but he is the people's governor general.
The Clarkson-Ralston Saul era has left its high- toned and circumpolar imprint. We have had a governor general ship of lofty (and, let us whisper it, bloodless) pretension, a harvest time for the canapé- and- string- quartet set. It has been a Chardonnay era at Rideau Hall. It's time for some beer.
Being as he already is the impresario and master of ceremonies of the national ritual- hockey- Mr. Cherry already carries on his shoulders the mass fealty of this hockey-cherishing country. In every living room and den, in every pool hall and bar, at every checkout counter, in Tim Hortons and at Canadian Tire, Grapes- such is the affectionate diminutive of this man- is the toast of every Canadian heart.
I think he would bring to the office of governor general a kind of profile that has hitherto been only dreamed of, and a popularity not contingent on luring the country's better novelists and musicians to high tea or the annual garden party. Governor General Don Cherry. It has quite a ring to it. The Conservatives' loss will be the country's gain.
Should this come to pass, I have only one wish: to be present when the Swedish ambassador presents his or her credentials.
I see now, more than four years after writing this homage (as the French foppishly put it- to borrow from an old comedy album), that my hopes of seeing Grapes as our G G are dim indeed. How dim? They have yet to so much as give Mr. Cherry an Order of Merit pin. A country that does not include Don Cherry on its roll of honour doesn't have a roll of honour.

From the Hardcover edition.
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