Despite history on labour disputes, Harper won’t intervene in NHL lockout

Regardless of his love of hockey, we won't be seeing Stephen Harper in an NHL crowd anytime soon.It's no secret that the Harper government has an affinity towards ending work stoppages.

Over the past year and a half, citing the need to protect Canada's fragile economy, the Tories have stepped-in to end labour disputes at Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail.

A NDP MP now wants to know why they're not intervening in the NHL lockout.

"To end the NHL lockout would make a really really good chapter in the prime minister's hockey book," Alexandre Boulerice said during a tongue-in-cheek statement in the House on Monday.

"As long as they're going to stick their nose into labour disputes, they might as well bring back our national sport and do something useful for a change."

Certainly Boulerice was joking.  The fact that the majority of the teams play in the U.S. makes an intervention virtually impossible.

[ Related: Federal Tories and NDP tied for support, Nanos poll shows ]

But would it make economic sense?

BMO Nesbitt Burns deputy chief economist Douglas Porter doesn't think so.

In a recent interview with the Financial Post, he states that the NHL lockout will only marginally affect the Canadian economy.  Specifically, he suggested that a year-long work stoppage would slice off 0.1 per cent of our gross domestic product or about $1.8 billion in lost economic productivity.

There would certainly be some losers: Broadcasters would lose viewers; restaurants and sports bars might struggle; and parking conglomerates will have empty lots.

But eventually, he says, people will start spending their money on other things boosting other sets of businesses.

"If everybody chooses to stay at home and not spend money anywhere else … it's possible that with all the spinoffs it could be a bit more than that," Porter told the Financial Post.

"The reality is that I think some of those entertainment dollars will be spent elsewhere. Not necessarily the opera, but somewhere else."

[ More Politics: Tory backbencher changes her name to Candice Bergen ]

By comparison, Canada's economic reliance on CP Rail and Air Canada is much greater.

Defending the government's intervention in the CP strike earlier this year, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said a prolonged CP labour dispute would cost the Canadian economy $560 million a week and would affect every thing from the auto industry to mining.

And while the Air Canada shutdown would 'only' cost the economy about $22.4 million a week, they argued it that it would inconvenience 3,000 employees serving 31 million passengers a year, flying to 58 scheduled Canadian destinations.

So, no Mr. Boulerice, as much as we all love hockey, intervening in the NHL lockout is not an economic necessity — even if it were possible.