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FOULDS: We are in serious need of a Canada Football Act II

Having the House of Commons exercise its political muscle to ensure pro football in Canada retains a 55-yard line and unlimited horizontal and vertical movement behind the line of scrimmage is not without precedent.
Foulds Christopher column head

Cathy McLeod will not seek re-election.

Now is the time for the four-term Kamloops Conservative MP to cement her legacy by working to save football as God intended it to be played — with three downs, a 20-second play clock, action on every play and the beloved rouge.

McLeod can do her part in at least trying to save the superior form of football from extinction by taking a page out of Marc Lalonde’s playbook.

She should introduce a private member’s bill in the House of Commons with the sole aim of ensuring any and all professional football played north of the 49th parallel adheres to Canadian CFL rules — and that means never will we see the excitement of a fair catch or a group of special teamers downing a punt and celebrating as if they had just won the Super Bowl.

Nor will we watch as players walk off the field with minutes left in the final quarter, thanks to an NFL play clock as long as War and Peace.

Yes, Canadian rules football may be in peril, but McLeod and the Canadian Parliament can save it.

Having the House of Commons exercise its political muscle to ensure pro football in Canada retains a 55-yard line and unlimited horizontal and vertical movement behind the line of scrimmage is not without precedent.

Consider the aforementioned Marc Lalonde and his proposed Canada Football Act of 1974.

The private member’s bill of the then-health minister of the Liberal government of the day included a clause that prohibited any league foreign from the CFL from playing in Canada.

The bill was in reaction to interlopers from the World Football League trying to gain a foothold in Canada, with businessman John Bassett’s proposed Toronto Northmen the focus.

The bill never became law — and it didn’t matter because Bassett decided to relocate to Memphis, Tenn., as the Southmen before playing a down in Canada.

The proposed bill worked in keeping an inferior form of football from infecting us north of the 49th.

We need a similar bill today, one with a focus on preserving Canadian rules football from coast to coast to coast now that the CFL and the twice-bankrupt XFL are “talking about talking,” as CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has said.

(Ambrosie is one of those guys who talks a lot, but rarely says anything. He is akin to those people you meet who speak in buzzwords, jargon and catchphrases, perhaps as a way of justifying time and money spent obtaining whatever degrees they possess.)

The CFL is in trouble, to be sure, but Ambrosie’s reasoning for teaming up with the XFL — “to grow the game of football” — is flawed.

The game of football south of the border, the less exciting, four-down brand played in the NFL, is in no need of growing. It is the most powerful and wealthy league on Earth.

Now, if Ambrosie is meeting with the XFL and its star investor — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — to grow the game of Canadian rules football, it would be a different matter altogether.

But neither Ambrosie, nor Johnson, nor anybody else involved in the discussions/merger has bothered to expand on what the game would look like if, indeed, the nine established CFL clubs join whatever XFL teams emerge from the circuit’s second implosion last year to form a new CFL/XFL league.

If, as many pundits have suggested, a merger would likely see the death of three downs and many other unique CFL rules, then we need to be proactive and have an MP like McLeod create a legacy before she leaves Parliament Hill.

A bill that becomes law that mandates professional football in Canada must be played under existing Canadian rules could protect history, culture and a good number of jobs for players born with the Maple Leaf floating through their veins.

Arguments have been made that the CFL is bleeding badly financially and may need to hook up with a sordid partner such as the XFL to simply stave off death.

If that is the case, if the Canadian Football League can survive only by ceasing to be the Canadian Football League and marrying a twice-failed venture to become a second-tier NFL nobody wants or needs, then let’s hold a funeral for the venerable circuit.

I’d rather we bury the grand old lady and remember her as she was meant to be than have an imposter shrink the field, freeze the backfield and line up in Victory formation with enough time left on the clock for a few touchdowns to be scored in the CFL.

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds