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Politics Briefing: Bank of Canada notes governor's seven-year term, following Pierre Poilievre's comments – The Globe and Mail




The Bank of Canada issued a terse statement Thursday underscoring Governor Tiff Macklem’s seven-year term, a day after Conservative leadership candidate and Ontario MP Pierre Poilievre said he would fire the head of the bank if he formed the government.

Poilievre was accused by his leadership opponents of politically interfering with the bank. It is designed to operate outside of the political fray in order to set interest rates and manage inflation without fear of voter backlash or influence from elected politicians.

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“It’s not the Bank’s role to comment on political debates,” Bank of Canada spokesperson Paul Badertscher said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail on Thursday.

“Governor Macklem was appointed by the Bank of Canada’s Board of Directors with the approval of the Governor in Council for a 7-year period, and his term runs until June, 2027.”

Parliamentary Reporter Marieke Walsh, Economics Reporter Mark Rendell and I report here.

There’s a report here on Wednesday’s Conservative leadership debate in Edmonton where Mr. Poilievre first raised the idea.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


INFLATION DEVALUES FEDERAL SCHOLARSHIPS: RESEARCHERS – Federal scholarships intended to support some of Canada’s most accomplished graduate students in science have become so devalued by inflation that those who receive them are effectively earning below the poverty line absent any additional means of income, a coalition of senior researchers has warned. Story here.

COURT APPROVES DEFERRED SNC-LAVALIN PROSECUTION – Quebec prosecutors have received court approval for a deferred prosecution agreement with Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the first such deal since the new legal mechanism became law in 2018. Story here.

SINGH SPEAKS TO TROUBLING VERBAL HARASSMENT EXPERIENCE – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the aggressive verbal harassment he endured outside a campaign event in Peterborough, Ont. was one of the most troubling experiences of his political career. Story here from CBC.

PRESSING QUESTION IN ORDER AT B.C. LEGISLATURE – Politicians ask a lot of questions in British Columbia’s legislature, but for New Democrat member Rick Glumac, his question posed Wednesday was especially important. Story here.


The leaders of Ontario’s main political parties are making stops across southern Ontario, with the NDP set to announce details of its mental-health plan, and the Green Party releasing a costed platform. Overview here. It’s day nine of the Ontario election.

FORD BACKS SLAVE-AUCTION CANDIDATE – Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says his candidate Stephen Lecce has his full support, a day after Lecce apologized in the wake of a published report about a so-called slave auction during his time as a fraternity leader in university. Story here.

ONTARIO LIBERALS DROP CANDIDATE – The Ontario Liberals have dropped a candidate after the NDP unearthed comments he made on Facebook using a slur for gay people. Story here.

Want to hear more about the Ontario election from our journalists? Subscribe to Vote of Confidence, a twice-weekly newsletter dedicated to the key issues in this campaign, landing in your inbox starting May 17 until election day on June 2.


CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in Edmonton – the site of this week’s first official candidate’s debate – on Thursday, and Calgary on Friday before a trip to Vancouver. In Edmonton Roman Baber was scheduled to hold a Thursday evening “meet and greet.” Patrick Brown was in Alberta on Thursday. Jean Charest was returning to Montreal from Edmonton. Pierre Poilievre was scheduled Thursday to hold a “meet and greet” with supporters and party members at a golf club and resort in Cape Breton.

LEISURE POLICY FOR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES – Wednesday’s first official debate for Conservative leadership candidates took a twist into their leisure habits, with questions on such comments as the books they are reading, the music they listen to and what they are streaming.

To be specific, moderator Tom Clark asked:

-What books the candidates are reading.

-What are their political heroes, not including Winston Churchill.

-What music they listen to?

-What they last binge watched?

-What historic figure they would most like to have dinner with?

Scott Aitchison

Book: Mr. Aitchison said he is reading a book called “Water” that’s about the future of water, and the importance of water in geopolitical issues.

Political Hero – Former prime minister John Diefenbaker. “He was a tremendous orator. He brought us the Bill of Rights. He was a tremendous Canadian who defended Canadian freedoms, and enshrined them in law.”

Music: Oscar Peterson, but added that he is listening to more country music during his campaign road trips.

Streaming: The comedy TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He said his parliamentary colleague Eric Melillo got him hooked on the series while they were doing French immersion in Quebec.

Historical Dinner Guest: Nelson Mandela. “He’s a hero, how he brought South Africa together and ended apartheid is nothing short of miraculous and incredible.”

Roman Baber

Book: “It’s been difficult since the leadership started, but before that, a friend suggested that I read David and Goliath. That’s been a theme throughout our campaign, that we can continue to exceed expectations.”

Political Hero: Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. “She was not afraid of making difficult decisions. She stood up to the radical, left-wing mob.”

Music: Amy Winehouse. “When I hear Amy Winehouse, I can see into her soul. She speaks to issues of addiction and mental health, something people know I am very passionate about.”

Streaming : Married … with Children, the American TV sitcom that aired between 1987and 1997. “I learned the English language watching Married .. .with Children, with subtitles.”

Historical Dinner Guest: Former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. “He opposed one of the greatest evils of the 20th century, opposed the radical left and communism and did it with grace and with courage.”

Patrick Brown

Book – “On the leadership campaign, let’s be honest, there’s no time, to be laying around reading books, but historically I have loved legal novels, the John Grisham books. Growing up I loved Horatio Alger, the rags to riches stories, which is our Canadian dream.”

Political Hero: Former Ontario premier Bill Davis, well known for his connections to Brampton. Mr. Brown is the mayor of Brampton. “I felt he radiated decency. I learned more from him than anyone else. He lived only a few doors down from me in Brampton, Ontario, and I think his legacy is one that is enormous in our country.”

Music – Alessia Cara, and the British rapper M.I.A.

Streaming: His wife got him into Ozark, the Netflix TV series, which they binge watched although he said he is too busy to watch the latest, final season.

Historical Dinner Guest: Former Canadian prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald. “I resent the cancel culture we’re seeing on great figures who built our country. That … would be a fascinating dinner.”

Jean Charest

Book: “The most recent book I have been reading is about Russia, and I forget the title right now.”

Hero: Thomas D’Arcy McGee. “Born in Ireland, went to the United States. Chose to come to Canada. Renounced Irish nationalism, and gave his life for his country because he was assassinated, one of the only political assassinations in the country, by Fenians.”

Music: For jazz, Pat Metheny, but he and his family love Charles Aznavour.

Streaming: Call My Agent, the French TV series. “It was absolutely spectacular.”

Historical Dinner Guest: “I am a great fan of the partnership between Sir John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier. My son and I wrote a chapter in a book about George-Étienne Cartier, who showed extraordinary resilience, promoted property rights and was one of those who allowed this country to actually come to be.”

Leslyn Lewis

Book – Shackleton’s Way. “It’s about sacrificial leadership. It’s about lending yourself to service for others and being a leader that people can admire and aspire to.”

Political Hero – British abolitionist William Wilberforce. “He spent his life fighting for the abolition of slavery even though he never knew whether or not he would see that materialize, but he had convictions to stand up for what he believed in and [it] did not matter if it sacrificed his political career.”

Music: Jazz, with a particular interest in John Coltrane.

Streaming – Bridgerton. She said she loved that it was a different era. “And people did not see race. They just existed and coexisted, and it was very beautiful because I also watched it in French and it also improved my French.”

Historical Dinner Guest: Nelson Mandela. “He existed at a time when his country was divided, torn apart by racial hatred, and yet he fought against it. He was able to overcome and bring people together.”

Pierre Poilievre

Book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson.. “A great book, a lot of good lessons. We all need to improve ourselves and I think he has a lot of good wisdom in that book that can help anybody.”

Political Hero: Former prime minister Wilfrid Laurier. “He opened up the West to immigration, brought many of my ancestors here. Although he was a Catholic, he made a point of reading a Protestant bible so he could understand the other side. He said that he used to pick fights with the Scottish boys and flirt with the Scottish girls and managed to bring all the Canadian nations together into this wonderful country we call Canada, based on the principle of freedom.”

Music – Alberta country singer Paul Brandt.

Streaming – ”Netflix had a series on Trotsky, actually. And it helped me to better understand the diabolical of communism and totalitarian socialism. The bright side is it helped me appreciate the freedom that we have in Canada that we have to stand up and defend.”

Historical Dinner Guest – Former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. “Through principle and courage, he saved the American union and ended slavery. He did so, obviously, at great personal sacrifice with his eventual assassination.” Mr. Poilievre also admires the point that, Mr. Lincoln was an autodidact, a self-taught person, who taught himself, coming from humble beginnings as a working-class person.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, May.12, accessible here.

BLAIR IN LYTTON – In the village of Lytton, B.C, federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair is holding a media availability after a meeting with municipal officials and residents. In June, 2021, much of the community was destroyed by a wildfire. Story here.

JOLY IN GERMANY – Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was in Germany on Thursday to participate in G7 and NATO foreign ministers’ meetings, taking place through to May. 15.

MURRAY IN NEWFOUNDLAND – Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray is in Corner Brook, NL, on Thursday, where she announced that her department will host a Seal Summit this fall in St. John’s – a commitment that responds to one of nine recommendations by the Atlantic Seal Science Task Team. CBC reports here that the industry-led report — commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans— found that DFO efforts to measure the impact of the massive seal population in Atlantic Canada are “woefully inadequate,” and disputes the department’s claims that, for the most part, seals are not harming fish populations.


On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, western arts correspondent, Marsha Lederman, joins us to talk about her new book Kiss the Red Stairs and the responsibility she feels to share her family’s stories as the child of Holocaust survivors. Story here.


In Ottawa, the Prime Minister participated in private meetings, participated virtually in the Global COVID-19 Summit, co-hosted by Belize, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal and the United States, and spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron. The Prime Minister also held a virtual meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš and held a joint media availability with the Latvian Prime Minister. Trudeau was also scheduled to meet with Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok, and meet with recipients of the Indspire Awards.


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh met with representatives of the Canadian Dental Association, and was scheduled to attend a Rally for Choice on abortion services, and participate in question period.

No schedule for other leaders.


EMERGENCIES ACT – Canadians remain unsure whether the use of the Emergencies Act was the best path to resolution in breaking up the protests that besieged Ottawa earlier this year, according to a new study by the Angus Reid Institute. Details here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how Ottawa wants to tackle `online harms’ though it’s still not clear what it’s going after, or how: The Trudeau government went into the election last fall with two promises about “protecting Canadians from online harms.” Having won re-election, they’ve discovered that doing so is easier said than done. One promise, to “strengthen the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate,” implied that they would revive a bill that died in the last Parliament, and which would have given the Canadian Human Rights Commission the power to go after alleged hate speech, under the rubric of discrimination law. We discussed the problems with that bill, which the Liberals have not yet reintroduced, in yesterday’s editorial.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s team is timid in the face of global disorder:In confronting the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as other threats to liberal democracy, the government is being overly cautious, reactive instead of proactive. There’s a lack of enterprise, leaving this country’s potential on the foreign stage markedly unfulfilled. In the past, inaction wasn’t so costly. Given the new world disorder, standing back won’t do. “We have to have a greater presence,” the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae told the gathering, “or we will lose out.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on how Alberta’s court ruling on pipeline law sees Trojan horse where none exists: “To listen to Premier Jason Kenney and his government colleagues tell it, Alberta’s Court of Appeal ruling that Ottawa’s Impact Assessment Act is an unlawful infringement into provincial jurisdiction instantly overturns the federal law. It does nothing of the sort. What it does is offer Mr. Kenney an opportunity to gloat and argue that the gobs of taxpayer money the province spent on the legal venture was all worth it: Alberta put Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government in its place. The two sides will almost certainly meet again on this issue and I would wager it will be Mr. Trudeau who emerges victorious next time around.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on Pierre Poilievre fanning frustration about Canada’s inflation woes: Mr. Poilievre’s repeated public disparagement of the Bank of Canada’s deflation worries represents a fundamental misunderstanding, or misrepresentation, of what the bank was actually talking about two years ago. The bank’s concern about deflation risk wasn’t a horrendous mistake that set off today’s inflation problem. Rather, it informed policies that shielded the economy from a much worse fate, and enabled a remarkable recovery from one of the most severe and unpredictable economic shocks in history.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Canada needs to put up or shut up on missile defence: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, has forced Canada to put up or shut up. We can no longer get away with merely paying lip service to doing our part to defend this continent and meeting our North Atlantic Treaty Organization obligations. After finally conceding in March that Canada would purchase 88 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets – the same plane Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had dismissed as a lemon during the 2015 federal election campaign – Ottawa committed $8-billion in new defence spending over six years in last month’s federal budget. However, it put off the most expensive and politically sensitive spending decisions by promising “a swift defence policy review to equip Canada for a world that has become more dangerous.”

Yasmin Khaliq (Policy Options) on when Canadians will benefit from the promised mental-health transfer: “When is the Liberal government going to make mental health a priority? The 2022 federal budget outlined plans to engage the provinces and territories in the development of a Canada mental health transfer. It also repeats the 2021 federal budget plan to create national standards on mental health. But, in reality what do these budget plans mean to the average Canadian seeking mental health services in the community today? Nothing.”

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Jason Kenney quits Alberta politics with critical letter on state of democracy



Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney stepped down as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Lougheed late Tuesday afternoon.

“Thank you to my constituents for the honour of representing them in Parliament and the Legislature over the past 25 years,” Kenney said in a tweet also containing a statement.

The resignation came two hours after the throne speech for the Fall session was read inside the legislature, which Kenney was not present for.

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Kenney said he is proud of the work done while he was the leader but with a new government in place under Premier Danielle Smith — who replaced him as leader of the UCP in October — and a provincial election coming in May 2023, now is the best time for him to step aside as MLA.

“This decision brings to an end over 25 years of elected service to Albertans and Canadians,” he said.

“I would like to thank especially the people of south Calgary for their support over nine elections to Parliament and the legislature, beginning in 1997. Thank you as well to the countless volunteers, staff members and public servants who have supported me throughout the past two and a half decades of public service.”

Kenney said in the future he hopes to continue contributing to democratic life but chose to close his resignation letter with a scathing reflection of the state of politics.

“Whatever our flaws or imperfections, Canada and I believe Alberta are in many ways the envy of the world. This is not an accident of history.”

Kenney went on to provide the following statement:

“We are the inheritors of great institutions built around abiding principles which were generated by a particular historical context. Our Westminster parliamentary democracy, part of our constitutional monarchy, is the guardian of a unique tradition of ordered liberty and the rule of law, all of which is centred on a belief in the inviolable dignity of the human person and an obligation to promote the common good. How these principles are applied to any particular issue is a matter of prudent judgment.

“But I am concerned that our democratic life is veering away from ordinary prudential debate towards a polarization that undermines our bedrock institution and principles.

“From the far left we see efforts to cancel our history, delegitimize our historically grounded institutions and customs and divide society dangerously along identity lines. And from the far right we see a vengeful anger and toxic cynicism which often seeks to tear things down, rather than build up and improve our imperfect institutions.”

“As I close 25 years of public service, I do so with gratitude for those who built this magnificent land of opportunity through their wisdom and sacrifice. And I’m hopeful that we will move past this time of polarization to renew our common life together in this amazing land of limitless opportunity.”

Kenney announced his intention to step down as the leader of the United Conservative Party on May after he received 51.4 percent support in his leadership review vote.

Earlier Tuesday, Smith was sworn in as the new member for Brooks-Medicine Hat after winning a byelection for the seat earlier this month.

It was her first time back on the floor of the legislature chamber since the spring of 2015.

At that time, Smith was with the Progressive Conservatives, having led a mass floor-crossing of her Wildrose Party months earlier. She failed to win a nomination for the PCs in 2015 and returned to journalism as a radio talk show host for six years.

Kenney remained a backbencher UCP legislature member until his resignation. It’s not yet known when a byelection will be held in Calgary-Lougheed.

Kenney joins a long list of Alberta conservative leaders sidelined following middling votes in leadership reviews.

Former Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein left after getting 55 percent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford received 77 percent in their reviews but stepped down from the top job when the party pushed back.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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Murray Mandryk: Today’s partisan politics abandons all common sense



Long abandoned is the principle in politics that politicians are there to represent everyone…even those that didn’t vote for you.

Politics: The art of abandoning all manner of common sense and principle in favour of convincing your own supporters what you’re doing is just and true while what your opponent promotes simply isn’t.

That’s probably cynical and unhelpful.

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Sadly, though, it’s neither as cynical nor as destructively divisive as much of what we see every day from politicians themselves whose only interest is in catering to their respective bases.

Long abandoned is the principle in politics that politicians are there to represent everyone…even those that didn’t vote for you.

Today’s politics is tribalism and, sadly, this cuts across party lines…although that observation is, evidently, now considered offensive to members themselves.

We’re not like that — they are.

Let us review, beginning with the latest from the federal Liberals. By definition, liberals (small l) are supposedly respectful and accepting of behaviour and opinions different from their own, open to new ideas and, promote individual rights, civil liberties, democracy and free enterprise.

Unless, of course, there are political points to be scored with your large urban base.

Consider the last-minute amendments to the latest federal gun-control bill that stands to criminalize millions of firearms now used by Canadian hunters.

The amendment would ban “a firearm that is a rifle or shotgun, that is capable of discharging centrefire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner and that is designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed.”

For those unfamiliar, that’s pretty much all hunting rifles and shotguns that aren’t pump, bolt or lever-action.

Essentially, this would ban all forms of semi-automatic firearms except for tube-style duck hunting shotguns — far in excess of the how Bill C-21 was pitched as a targeting of the sale of Canadian handguns (no mention of long guns was even in the initial draft bill).

This goes much further than the Liberals’ failed gun registry of 30 years ago, angering hunters, target shooters and of course, conservatives. It’s almost as if irritating the latter was the point.

The changes drew the expected angry response from Western Conservative politicians including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe — which only seems to fortify the Liberal notion that somehow what they are doing is right.

But what happens when they are not?

The ongoing problem with illegal guns crossing the U.S. border, 3D printers capable of producing all manner of weaponry and light sentences for violent crimes would seem far bigger threats than a hunting rifle locked up for 364 days a year.

But in today’s tribal political world, it’s not about common-sense solutions. It’s about the virtues you are signalling to your base, which takes us to today’s conservatives defined by preserving traditions, institutions and following rules of law.

Or at least until it’s their ox being gored as we are seeing at the Emergencies Act inquiry. Then it becomes about justifying all behaviour and lawlessness … as long as it was aimed at the Liberal government.

It was bad enough that we saw in January elected politicians like Moe writing letters of support to Freedom Convoy organizers — some of whom were subsequently criminally charged.

But the same Conservative politicians who cavorted and emboldened protester organizers are now eagerly engaging in political revisionism. To hell with what the people of Ottawa endured. Senator Denise Batters claims she “personally never felt safer.”

And those criminally charged with obstruction? The plethora of other actions meritorious of criminal charges and the very real threats at border crossings? A figment of Liberal and/or RCMP imaginations?

Of course, that has now been superseded by the battiness of convoy protest lawyer Brendan Miller being sued for accusing someone of being al Liberal provocateur who waved a Nazi flag just to make the protesters look bad.

But this, too, is easily justifiable when you can view everything through a lens of extreme partisanship rather than common sense that’s seemingly no longer required in politics.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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The U.S. and Iran beef is what politics has become at the World Cup




United States head coach Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams attend a press conference on the eve of the group B World Cup soccer match between Iran and the United States in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 28.The Associated Press

Over the weekend, U.S. Soccer sent out social-media posts containing an altered Iranian flag. Two lines of Islamic script and the country’s emblem had been stripped from it. A spokesperson for the American team said the change had been made to show support for Iranian women.

Iran has had a torrid first week in Qatar. Its Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, devotes huge chunks of his near-daily remarks to alternately lashing the team’s critics and begging them to back off.

Here was a main chance to change the story, courtesy of their old enemy. The fight is so silly, you’re tempted to think the two teams – who play each other on Tuesday – cooked it up together.

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Iran saw the provocation from the U.S. and raised it. It demanded FIFA suspend the American team for 10 games – effectively eliminating it from the World Cup. FIFA ignored it.

On Sunday, in the midst of a U.S. news conference, an Iranian journalist scolded America’s media operation, telling it to “respect international media.”

“This is World Cup, not MLS Cup,” he said.

The presser was cut short.

By Monday, Iranian journalists were pressing American manager Gregg Berhalter to move the U.S. Fifth Fleet out of the Persian Gulf. Shockingly, Berhalter doesn’t have any juice with the Navy.

Berhalter explained that neither he nor his players knew anything about the flag flap, but still apologized for it. No one wanted to hear it. This is what happens when athletes become political advocates. Everyone ends up looking clueless.

FIFA has spent years trying to strip the World Cup of its political symbolism and replace it with a commodified, pop-culture, politics-lite. That would be the sort of politics that gooses viewership, but doesn’t upset anyone.

It hasn’t helped itself by placing the event in military autocracies (Argentina 1978), functional dictatorships (Russia 2018), and developing nations that can’t afford to host it (a few).

A high-water mark for political tensions created by soccer goings-on was the 1982 semi-final, France vs. Germany. The two nations didn’t like each other going in. They liked each other much less after watching their countrymen kick the tar out of each other for 120 minutes. At one point, the German goalkeeper delivered a flying knee to an onrushing French player, knocking out several teeth.

Afterward, the German – Harald Schumacher – was told about the missing teeth. “I’ll pay for the crowns,” Schumacher said, glibly.

That went over as well as you’d imagine. Tensions mounted to a postwar high. The Germans learned the French hadn’t really forgiven them, and the French figured out they were still piping hot over it.

The situation was only defused when the then German chancellor publicly apologized to his French counterpart. The incident – referred to as ‘The Tragedy of Seville,’ after the city in which the match was played – remains a potent touchstone in both countries.

That was back when politics in sports had guardrails. You only went so far, for fear that a shouting match might become a shooting match.

Those limits have come off in recent years. People feel perfectly entitled – compelled, even – to show up at events such as this and start delivering speeches and tossing around insults.

As usual, FIFA is mostly to blame. By inveigling teams to engage in soft advocacy, it has persuaded the human brands in its temporary employ to speak the sort of truth that makes sponsors comfortable. But once the complaints get anywhere near the money, FIFA becomes a stickler for rules as written.

So, ‘OneLove’ armbands? Out. ‘No Discrimination’ armbands? In.

What does ‘no discrimination’ mean? Who, exactly, are these people who are for discrimination? When’s that press conference, because I’d like to attend it.

‘No discrimination’ means less than nothing, because it pretends to be something. Proper protest is organic. It isn’t approved by the marketing department, then sent off to the printers to be colour-matched and sized for overnight delivery.

After FIFA nixed the armbands, Germany came up with its own stunt. During the prematch team photo ahead of its first game, German players put their hands over their mouths. Presumably, this means they can’t speak their minds. Who exactly this is a shot at – FIFA? The state of Qatar? The World Cup writ large? – wasn’t defined.

And yet, they can speak. They’ve got cameras on them every hour of the day. People are itching to tell their stories. The German players haven’t been prevented from speaking. They’ve opted not to speak because they fear sanction.

So what is it? You’re taking a principled stand, or you’re doing a photo op? You can’t have both.

Now you’ve got USA and Iran taking pops at each other for kicks, hoping a few callbacks to the bad old days will jazz up their current sports chances.

Is it now totally out there to say this stuff ought not be taken so lightly? You want to start an international slapping contest with a sovereign country? Maybe your foreign service should be the one doing that, rather than the guy who runs the Instagram account at U.S. Soccer.

If you’re the United States of America, maybe don’t do that at all. You’re in no moral position to lecture anyone else.

But stripped of actual menace, that’s what politics has become at the World Cup (as well as the Olympics). It’s gamesmanship. It’s theatre. It’s for funsies.

And it can be fun. Until one day, something silly that happens here leaks out into the real world, where everyone doesn’t slap hands and trade jerseys when the game ends.

You feel like protesting the injustice inherent in staging this World Cup in this place? Or how your opponents comport themselves? How about not coming?

Why not apply the same standards of total commitment to your protesting that you do to your play? Otherwise, make room for serious people willing to take actual risks.

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