Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Looking Forward to 2014

For most Canadian political junkies 2014 will be seen as setup for the 2015 federal election. While there is some suspicion that Prime Minister Harper (CPC – Calgary Southwest, AB) will call an election in 2014 there is not much evidence of that. Harper and the Conservatives seem content to let the damage of the international recession “heal itself” and take credit while simultaneously putting distance between itself and the various scandals that have plagued it. While I desperately hope it is not the case, it is entirely possible that by the time voters are summoned in the autumn of 2015 the Senate scandal will be a tired story and fresh concerns, unaffordable tax cuts or effective microtargeting will give the Conservatives the push they need.

Most of the provinces have had an election in the last two years, so things may be relatively quiet on that front. However, Canada’s two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec will likely call an election this year. Minority governments, as both have, rarely survive longer two years. Ontario is moving towards its third and Quebec into its second. Many pundits are predicting an election in the spring of this year, which could yield any result. Quebec’s political landscape is not so dissimilar to Ontario’s with three strong parties. Any weakness will trigger an election by the opposition. New Brunswick also has an election this year, though I am less sure what the stakes are in the Maritime province.

Perhaps the election that will garner the most attention in 2014 for all the wrong reasons is the municipal elections in Ontario. A few months ago Alberta’s largest cities elected/re-elected energetic, ideas-driven mayors with real reform agendas. How I envy them. The antics of Rob Ford will draw national attention as he makes his bid to win re-election. Back in my hometown of Brampton, a series of bad stories has come out about the mayor, Susan Fennell and the city council. It seems like a strong challenger is likely in the wings in Peel. Mayor Hazel McCallion, the 92-year-old mayor of Mississauga, is retiring, leaving the spot in one of Canada’s largest cities open.

The end of 2013 felt like Canada was moving into a darker time in our politics. The public continued to lose faith with their elected officials and government seemed less able to function and provide the services the public demands. A severe competence deficit has opened up, and I think this will be compounded in the coming year. Take it with a grain of salt, I am feeling particularly cynical at the moment.

If one reflects on the insane events of 2013 it is so difficult to foresee any of them back a year ago. The outcome of municipal elections seem so petty measured against unthinkable natural disasters and the ongoing civil war in Syria. Perhaps, if we are lucky, 2014 will be a time when humanity is less desperate, more peaceful and less threatened. These changes do not happen on their own, which is why I idealistically keep following and participating in politics, with the hope that somehow it helps make a better world. 

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