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Fans wave flags before Canada's hockey match against the United States at the Vancouver Olympics on February 21, 2010.
Fans wave flags before Canada's hockey match against the United States at the Vancouver Olympics on February 21, 2010.

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How come MPs don't support our athletes in person? Add to ...

1. There in spirit, if not in body. Stephen Harper's edict forbidding his MPs from accepting free Olympic tickets is being respected; politicians are missing in action from the Games and trying to spot the MP or cabinet minister in the corporate suite at the hockey game is no longer a between-period-pastime.

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Expect today's hockey game between Canada and Germany to be a politician-free zone. Indeed, at the much-anticipated Canada-U.S. game on Sunday, few politicians were around

In some cases, corporations are not bothering to ask Tory MPs to join them for events their suites, knowing they will likely decline. One Canadian business executive said he and his company are not asking politicians or their staffers, either, figuring it's just too costly for them.

Another corporate executive joked that the "regional mayors" here are benefiting from the Harper edict - some of them have decided that accepting free tickets is not unethical.

But for those MPs who do go, it is proving very costly.

International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan has spent more than $5,000 at various events with his wife and kids.

North Vancouver Tory MP Andrew Saxton shelled out $1,100 for one ticket to the opening ceremony and another $800 so he and his brother could see a hockey game. Mr. Saxton says he doesn't begrudge the costs, he wants to support the Games and Canadian athletes.

Heritage Minister James Moore travels with his credit card at the ready. He is paying for his attendance at events - he was at the ill-fated Canada-U.S. hockey game on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has a pass, the same kind of access that was also offered to the Prime Minister and Governor-General, according to a senior Ignatieff official. It allows him to sit in an area designated for the "Olympic Family".

"If and when he goes in, seats that are not part of the section for the people with such a pass, he will pick up the tab. That has not happened yet," the official said.

You won't, however, find B.C. Conservative MP Jim Abbott in Vancouver at the Games. Although he supports the prime ministerial rule, he and his wife looked into getting tickets but just found it too prohibitive.

He said flying from his riding to Vancouver would cost $1,000 for the two of them; figure skating tickets were $750 each. "For $2,500 I can buy myself a really big screen TV and watch at home," he says.

2. Heart surgery and hairstyles. Fred Hutton is a television reporter and news anchor at NTV in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Earlier this month, he broke the story that Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams was traveling to the United States for undisclosed surgery.

Last Thursday, Mr. Hutton met with the Premier, who was recuperating from heart surgery in Florida and ready to break his silence.

"Well, I walked in … 'Hi, Premier. How are you?'," he told The Globe yesterday.

"I am good," the Premier replied and then turned the tables. "To be honest, Fred, how do you think I look?"

Mr. Hutton said the Premier looked a little tired. But other than that, and a slight stoop when he walked, Mr. Williams who had surgery to repair a heart valve, looked pretty good.

The Premier told him that he hadn't lost his appetite or any great amount of weight.

And Mr. Hutton said he would not be surprised if Mr. Williams makes an appearance at the Winter Olympics this week for Newfoundland and Labrador Day Friday.

Mr. Williams is to meet with his doctor in coming days and will be told whether he can travel or not. The only issue with coming to the Olympics is the length of the journey - he'd have to fly from coast-to-coast and spend a night in the middle of the country before arriving in Vancouver. It would be fairly exhausting but it's clear the Premier wants to try to get here.

Meanwhile, the second part of Mr. Hutton's interview is to be broadcast today.

In it, Mr. Hutton says he explores whether the 60-year-old Premier will seek a third term, why he chose the United States and the controversy around having his surgery there and - his new look.

After years of parting his hair with a very distinctive centre part, Mr. Williams has chosen to now part it on the side, Mr. Hutton says. The Premier will explain the significance.

(Photo: Canadian fans cheer on the men's hockey team against the United States this week. Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)

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