I suppose if I were to describe 2011 in one word I would say it was unstable. It seemed like anyone paying attention to the news of the last twelve months spent a considerable time waiting with bated breath. As a student of history often my attention is often drawn to the long view. Historians will likely look back at the past year and look at the tremendous change that rocked the international scene and remember that. Most remarkably is that the big events that challenged major powers affected all of us in some way.
While economists declared the recession which began in 2008 long over, it did not always feel that way. The American economy, the most powerful (arguably) in the world, has continued to languish. The consumer base, also known as the American public, are still stuck in a malaise and have been mired in an economy going nowhere, with little hope of a quick recovery.
Of course the economy was only made worse by the uncertainty generated by world events. Beginning in January a Tunisian revolt toppled a long-term dictator and initiated what has come to be known as the Arab Spring. From where the Sahara meets the Atlantic to the Iranian plateau revolts broke out against their governments. Dictators fell across the Middle East. Whether or not new democracies take their places or new forms of tyranny arise there is little doubt that 2011 has dramatically changed the region.
The Arab Spring eventually pulled in NATO in Libya, where a brutal, four-decade dictator was killed. The controversial intervention, and the reality of post-Ghaddafi Libya will only be understood in time.
Across the Mediterranean Sea Europe faces its own tribulations. The on-going and painful debt crisis has loomed over the continent and the world economy. During the summer months it seemed every week Europe was days away from a collapse. The crisis has not passed, and we will hear more about Europe in the coming year.
2011 was a year of elections in Canada, and a great year for politics. The biggest news story was the spring federal election. I often mock the phrase “a historic election” (please point out the elections that are not historic), but if one in recent memory deserves the title, it was the one this year. Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally triumphed and gained the majority government he had long-desired by breaking through in Ontario, and making decent gains in Atlantic Canada. The Liberals were crushed, and reduced to their smallest caucus in history, and third-party status for the first time. Jack Layton led the NDP to a tremendous victory in the province of Quebec, and even made significant gains in Ontario and elsewhere.
Sadly, Jack Layton was unable to appreciate the fruits of his victory, as he passed away this past August. The public service and the outpouring for Mr. Layton were truly remarkable, and something I will remember for a long time.
There were seven provincial and territorial elections: Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, and Saskatchewan. Voter turnout continued to decline. All of the incumbents were re-elected, with various levels of success.
Gordon Campbell, Premier of B.C. was replaced by Christy Clark, Kathy Dunderdale was elected Premier of Newfoundland and Alison Redford became Premier of Alberta. This brings the highest number of female premiers at any one time in Canadian history.
This year has been pretty good for the Orange Tory, if I may allow a personal digression. The readership on the blog has continued to grow. In June I marked the blog’s anniversary. In September I signed on to the Toronto Star and Speak Your Mind cover of the Ontario election as a community blogger. It was really awesome to provide coverage for my community and the rest of the province. Overall, I look forward to 2012 for the blog.
Tonight is the Iowa caucus, and I look forward to providing some commentary for the Republican contest and presidential election in the coming year. It looks like my prediction will be quite off from last week. Oh well, that’s the price of prediction. I also plan to cover the federal and provincial governments and continuing to offer my ideas for policy and how to improve our democracy.
I wish you all a Happy New Year, and all the best in 2012.