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At The Senator

THE PUNDITS’ PONDER

There’s No Second Place Silver Medal in Politics

Rob Silver Mark Spiro Chad Rogers

On the heels of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games that saw Canada set a new all-time team high with 26 medals, including 14 gold medals — the highest number of gold medals Canada has ever won at any Games, and the most gold medals ever won by any nation at an Olympic Winter Games, political operatives Mark Spiro, and Rob Silver and Chad Rogers gathered at Toronto’s oldest restaurant, The Senator, to examine what the Olympics mean for politics in Canada.

Rob Silver is a lawyer, entrepreneur and public affairs leader in the energy sector. He regularly appears in Canadian media including his blog in the Globe and Mail. He is a former political staffer, policy director and campaign activist at the provincial and federal level.

Mark Spiro is a Principal at an national public affairs firm and a veteran of international and domestic political campaigns at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

Chad Rogers is a public affairs consultant specializing in public opinion research, communications and strategy. He is a reformed political staffer and campaign activist at home and abroad.

Rob Silver: We’re talking about the Van- couver 2010 Olympics, and what they mean for the ballot box in Canada.

Chad Rogers: Nothing.

RS: It’s going to be quite the conversa- tion. You’re the moderator.

CR: Right, so, Mark, what does it mean? Does Vancouver 2010 have any political effect? If we think of the next election, provincial or federal, does Vancouver 2010 have any difference?

Mark Spiro: Short term, no. The long- term difference, is, I think, some of the programs that have been put in place around the Olympics like Own the Po- dium program. Own the Podium could actually be a very interesting legacy piece.

CR: Which are?

MS: Well, I think part of it depends on whether or not they continue the pro-

gramme, which I hope they do. This country suffers from a sort of a reverse nationalism and Own the Podium was an excellent notional idea. The question is what sort of nationalism grows out of this.

RS: There’s two ways this can go. There’s been a lot of criticism that Own the Po- dium is un-Canadian. It’s chest thump- ing, it’s arrogant, it’s over-confidence, it puts “winning as what matters as op- posed to fighting the good fight.” There are two important points: first, there is a discomfort that we’ve seen with this approach. There was a real over-sell and under-deliver in terms of our capacity to actually own the podium that blew up in the face of the organiz- ers. That would be a negative argument. The second argument, which I think is really encouraging, and I think has some interesting implications for Can- ada, is when we started seeing criticism from British and, to a lesser extent, the American press of how the games were organized from. In the past, Canadians

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