A Parable

Dale MacMillan - Getty Images

The people of Edmonton should have one word for Daryl Katz, and that is "no".

A child is walking through the hallways at school when, all of a sudden, the bully walks to her. The bully and his friends sneer down at the child, but their words offer salvation. Just give the bully her lunch money, he says. Give him enough and he might let her hang around with him and his cronies for a bit. Otherwise, things will go much less smoothly.

Most of us would not tell the child to pay the bully off, for we know what comes of it. The next day another shakedown demand for a larger amount. The day after, another. Always with the promise of future prosperity and the barely-veiled threat of future pain. Even if the bully isn't bluffing and the child would take a beating, it's the better option in the long run. A pummeling hurts when it happens, but there's always the chance the child fights back better than expected and, even if not, the next day the child can show an adult the scars and the bully will get his just desserts. Whereas paying that bully off will never end well. The child would never gain that bully's esteem, not even for a billion dollars, for there is nobody less admirable than the easily intimidated. Respect can't be bought; contempt, on the other hand, comes cheap.

As I read about Daryl Katz ramping up his demands for a stately pleasure dome with a visit to Seattle, I'm thinking in these terms more and more. What could you call Katz but a bully? He promises more than he will ever deliver, he swaggers about demanding our respect, our obedience, and our cash, and if we dare stand up to him he threatens to smash our faces in by taking away our beloved Edmonton Oilers, the Oilers of Gretzky, Messier, Harrison, Coffey, Hamilton, and Smyth.

Maybe you think Edmonton isn't a world-class city but ought to become one. I happen to respect Edmonton already, even though I haven't lived in the area for eight years. But if I did think Edmonton desperately needed some distinction, it wouldn't come by paying off the thug Katz and his henchmen. Who on earth respects somebody who spends massive sums because they didn't have the guts to say no? What is world class about responding to naked blackmail with grovelling surrender? That's not the act of a world-class city, it's the act of a city without the dignity and backbone to define itself and which can only try, feebly, to get respect radiated off the bully who shook out their pockets; the victim cozying up to the aggressor.

Maybe the child gets a bloody nose. The bully has big fists and plenty of friends. When he's looking down at the child and demanding that lunch money, it's not because the child looks like a strong target. But even if Katz isn't bluffing, even if it were one-hundred-percent-cast-in-iron guaranteed that he would move the Oilers out of Edmonton if he didn't get his ice palace, the people of Alberta should rise as one and tell him to fuck off. Because there's nothing less world-class than cowardice.

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