Hockey and Politics Aren’t That Different

Agnes Macphail: Canada's first female MP elected in 1921

Agnes Macphail: Canada’s first female MP elected in 1921

This quote comes from an address by Agnes Macphail gave in 1936 entitled “The Problem of Government Efficiency in Canada: How Do We Need to Modify the Democratic System to Make it Function in a Complex Society.” Not the catchiest of titles and certainly wouldn’t be consider clickbait. However, she saves the barn-burning rhetoric for the body of her speech. Her most insightful observation comes in her introductory remarks when she compares parliamentary politics to hockey. She argues that:

There is no real interest [among voters] in government in Canada. Whatever interest there is is a sporting interest. They watch parliament as they would a game. They back a party as they would their favourite hockey team. They are elated if their side wins; despondent momentarily if it loses. But then they disperse and go about the serious business of life, until time for the next contest. And the serious business of life is not connected in their minds with government.

In our modern age of voter apathy, partisan politics and increasing cynicism and mistrust of politicians, her comments seem incredibly appropriate. So really is it the 1930s or today?


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