Let’s own all of Canada’s podiums

If nothing else, the Sochi Olympics proved beyond a shadow of a scoreless-soccer-game adherent’s doubt that everyone – even a polite, unyieldingly apologetic, ceaselessly accommodating Canadian – loves a winner.

Perhaps, now, especially a Canadian loves a winner.

The medal haul for this country was, indeed, impressive: 10 gold, 10 silver and five bronze. Overall, the total was just shy, by one, of the nation’s tally in Vancouver four years ago when Canuck athletes brought in 14 gold, seven silver and five bronze.

The shortfall this year may have disappointed certain die-hard proponents of the country’s coordinated “Own the Podium” program, the expressed objective of which in Russia was to “maintain the momentum” of La-La Land’s earlier success.

Still, the sad faces in the Canadian contingent of well-wisher were few and far between during the medal events at which our sportsmen and women excelled. In fact, how could it have been otherwise?

There were golds in women’s and men’s skiing; women’s bobsleigh, curling and hockey; and men’s curling, speed skating and hockey. There were silvers and bronzes in freestyle and alpine skiing, figure skating, speed skating, short track, and snowboard.

And who will ever forget the women’s hockey squad?

Going in, they were deemed, in certain quarters, to be too old and too slow. In the end, and in the words of one commentator, they were “champions”, pure and simple. Nor did their male counterparts push up daffodils: Not once did they fall behind in scoring en route to Olympic Gold.

Some in this country have reviled the whole prickly and archly competitive reasoning behind “Own the Podium”. They consider it rude and decidedly un-Canadian. I’m not one among this crowd.

The bottom line is that we, as a nation, should be owning all podiums in every walk of life that matters to this country. And if we can take inspiration from our fittest and most fiercely determined fellow citizens, then the $80-million that taxpayers have spent to train and send them to the international games is worth every loonie.

Why not own the podium, for example, with advanced research that leads to flexible, renewable, sustainable energy? Are we so blinkered by the quotidian realities of our abundant reserves of oil and gas, that we can’t perceive the economic opportunities  that come with leading the world in the production of solar, wind, smart grid, biomass and biofuel technologies for domestic and export markets?

Why not own the podium with a public, universally accessible, national system of early childhood education, integrated into the primary school system? Must we perennially lag our sister states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in providing good quality ECE?

According to some recent research, national spending on pre-school is only 0.2 per cent of GDP. That compares with expenditure rates of between two and ten times the Canadian amount in the United States, Finland and Sweden.

Meanwhile, our own regional turf in the Maritimes, can we finally own the podium with a truly effective strategy for inter-jurisdictional economic collaboration, risk-sharing, innovation and foreign market development? Aren’t we about ready to concede that the three provinces, which collectively house the population of Montreal, would benefit from closer ties among them?

In New Brunswick, of course, no one’s winning any medals for stellar performance on the fiscal field. That a province of 750,000 people should sport a deficit of $500 million on a debt of nearly $12 billion staggers all rational appreciation for prudent management in government.

But is there even here, buried somewhere beneath this mess, a podium to own?

What new feats of financial derring-do will we authorize future finance ministers to undertake? How much more belt-tightening will we be prepared to endure?

What do we visualize as the shape of our future, and what great sacrifices and immense efforts will we make to bring that future into focus and, finally, ascend the pedestal to receive our rewards?

These are the urgent questions of the day. They are for winners to answer.

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