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Don Cherry: It’s loony-right night in Canada, brought to you by the CBC

I spent part of the weekend reading up on Don Cherry's views on how this country is run and by whom. A bracing experience, with dollops of black comedy. Rather like watching the Leafs.

And it eventually occurred to me – who needs Sun TV News when CBC is unsubtly furthering a right-wing agenda? Thanks to CBC's hands-off, shrugging attitude to Don Cherry's political activism, the broadcaster is authenticating that activism.

In case you don't live in the centre of the universe, you should know that today Cherry will "introduce" Rob Ford, the new mayor of Toronto, at the mayor's first council meeting.

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Why is Ford Don Cherry's kind of guy? According to the Toronto Star: "Voters are 'sick of the elites and artsy people' running politics, says Don Cherry." Cherry is also reported to be pleased by things "shifting around a bit to the right" and is further quoted as saying, "It's time for some lunch-pail, blue-collar people." That wouldn't be Ford, exactly, as he's a well-off career politician. Even just reading Cherry in the paper one can hear the tone of sanctimonious self-importance so familiar from Hockey Night in Canada.

This is Cherry's second foray into politics. Recently he endorsed Julian Fantino, the Conservative candidate in last week's by-election in Vaughan, and recorded a telephone message endorsing the former Ontario Provincial Police commissioner. These acts have unleashed some peculiar commentary, much of it of the gee-shucks variety written with a lavish number of puns about hockey. Like it was all meaningless. But it isn't.

Here's the thing: The politicization of Hockey Night in Canada is now complete.

Cherry's always been bombastic about vaguely political issues, but disguised his reactionary rants as folksy, on subjects such as French guys and Canada's failure to join in the invasion of Iraq. Then, more significantly, came those ceaseless, maudlin memorials to young women and men who have died fighting in Afghanistan. As if their deaths deserved nothing more noble than a TV freak in a pink suit spouting cracker-barrel philosophy about the worth of the mission in Iraq.

Like many rich and famous TV personalities, Cherry now comes across as a narcissist. His embrace of Conservative orthodoxy is his business, apparently, even as he's shoving it down the country's throat on a publicly funded broadcaster.

The CBC tends to support him. Certainly it takes the view that the political forays are Cherry's own business. "Private citizens are allowed to act as private citizens," the CBC's Jeff Keay said in a statement recently. He pointed out that Cherry is on contract with Hockey Night in Canada, not a full-time employee of CBC. "His actions have nothing to do with either CBC or Hockey Night in Canada, nor will they be presented on the air."

This is disingenuous nonsense. By associating himself with right-wing politicians to the extent that he endorses them and makes pronouncements about who should govern this country, Cherry has associated Hockey Night in Canada and the CBC with right-wing political views.

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Fantino and Ford represent slightly different shades of the loony right in Canada. Cherry is the looniest of them all. From the vantage point of wealth and fame accrued from a pulpit on a public broadcaster, Cherry is merrily pushing this country to the far right, loony division. Rob Ford believes there's been a "war on cars" in Toronto and, apparently, as this war was way more successful than the "War on Drugs," the "War on Poverty" and the "War on Terror," he was required to step up and save the car, car owners and all things car.

I'm not sure if this means that public transit is for losers, or for "the elites and artsy people." The general view would be that transit is for "lunch-pail, blue-collar people." Thus, we have a riddle on the transit-versus-cars issue. Maybe Cherry can explain it all, after he motors in from the City of Mississauga to the City of Toronto and gives his thumbs-up to the Ford regime.

Fantino has a beef with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and compared his Liberal opponents' campaign strategies to Hitler's propaganda tactics. His views on cars and transit are unknown to me.

Of course, in its hands-off attitude, the CBC is tacitly supporting Cherry's peddling of Conservative dogma. The CBC has been kettled, in the same way that cops "kettle" crowds during demonstrations or protests. The tactic is to surround, contain and intimidate the protesters, leaving them with only one exit option. Since the first election of this minority Conservative government, the CBC has been surrounded, intimidated and criticized by the right to the point where its only choice of response has become a sharp shift to the right.

Have you noticed that perhaps the most repeated phrase on CBC and CBC NN these days is "less government, lower taxes"? That's part of a rant by Kevin O'Leary of Dragons' Den and The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, and is used to promote O'Leary's TV presence on CBC. O'Leary's views on cars and public transit are unknown to me, but I get the feeling that he thinks transit is for losers.

Mind you, we are the losers when CBC is kettled into accommodating Cherry, O'Leary and the rest of it. This isn't just a game, any more than hockey is just a game. The country is being peddled a right-wing version of itself with dollops of help from the intimidated elites and artsy people who control the CBC. What a brutal black comedy this has become.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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