Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NHL charter flights: Oval Office worthy stuff to the Harper team

Update (7:20 p.m.) below.

One of the great issues of our time, the fate of NHL charter flights. Exaggerating, of course. But the reports seem to have it right up there with the "Buy American" issue and Afghanistan. How interesting. I don't know about you, but this one has been keeping me up at nights. Phew, sure glad Obama is involved now.

Harper raised it in his opening statement in the Oval Office when given the opportunity. Right there in priority with the economic recovery platitudes, the G20 and then, particular attention was drawn:
We're planning for the G20; we're looking forward to that. I think that's well in hand. I think we're going to have very useful and productive meetings there. And we discussed some of these irritants that arise in our trade relationship. Particularly I do want to mention this question of the charter flights, the NHL charter flights, which has been a difficulty in recent months. We think we're very close to resolving that in the next very little while. I think we have some kind of a tentative agreement in principle and we're working to finalize that in the next few days.
Yes, "particularly," that deserves a mention. Forever executing the Frank Luntz playbook, still. Mention hockey in the Oval Office. Garner yourself a headline in doing so, at that: "Harper and Obama talk Afghanistan, the economy and hockey."
Mr. Harper also said the two countries were close to an agreement on solving a charter flight problem that threatened to disrupt the soon-to-start National Hockey League season – an issue of particular importance to the Prime Minister who is an ardent hockey fan.
He scores!

The point being, yes, that's an issue, but what is it doing being elevated into the Oval Office? Aren't there a few other more pressing issues between our nations than NHL charter flights? I wonder what Obama must have really thought about this.

Does anyone have any doubts that if a different Prime Minister were sitting there with Obama the conversation's focus might also have been different? The above issues, trade and Afghanistan, would occur, absolutely. But there would quite likely be discussion of the closure of Guantanamo Bay, for example, and the repatriation of Omar Khadr or how Canada could help in that effort at the moment. Or, to name a major issue at the moment where the President could use a boost...HEALTH CARE. Stand up for the Canadian system, make a casual remark, we're doing OK, etc. I bet Chretien would have been all over it. What an opportunity there could be for a real strengthening of the relationship with the Obama team should an assist (to use a hockey metaphor) be handed to them in the midst of a tough legislative fight. But nope.

Maybe a minor bone to pick. But it's there and jumped out in the coverage. One of these things does not belong with the others.

Update (7:20 p.m.): Don Martin scrutinizes the significance of the focus on the NHL issue.