Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 in Review

For Canadians I think it is fair to say it was a year of significant change and conflict. Perhaps it is the events of the last quarter that coloured my perception (the federal election, the attacks in Paris, the ongoing tensions among ethnic minorities in North America, the refugee crisis, and on...).

On the political level Canada has seen a number of important transitions. Alberta elected a NDP government, ending the 40+ years of Tory dynasty. The long-term ramifications of this are still largely unknown. Hopefully Alberta will develop a more competitive provincial political scene. In the meantime it must wrestle with the economic stagnation from collapsing oil prices. The federal election on October 19th decisively ended the Harper era. If Trudeau upholds the commitments during the election the political landscape could change considerable, i.e. the Senate, our electoral system and transparency of the government overall.

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Committee released its report and long list of recommendations to heal the rift between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous Canadians. Several political leaders have committed to adapting the proposals. However the window for action is closing and the biggest risk is that this fresh opportunity slips through our fingers yet again.

Outside of the election two major political conflicts caught my attention in 2015. The first is the Senate scandal. The trial of Mike Duffy began this year. While Mike Duffy has become the face of the problems of the Senate the question of its legitimacy and usefulness in 21st century Canada has come under scrutiny. Prime Minister Trudeau has promised reforms, but there are real concerns that it is merely tinkering around the edges.

The second issue that consumed a lot of my attention was the Hurontario-Main Light Rail Transit. Brampton City Council refused to accept $400 million to build the line from Steeles Avenue to the Brampton GO Station. The debate has had interesting consequences by engaging a cohort of pro-urban, pro-transit, young group of activists. I hope these people stay involved in municipal politics and help move Brampton forward.

The ongoing Syrian civil war manifested in the collective consciousness by triggering a massive refugee/migrant crisis. The world has struggled to help the fleeing wave of humanity. The fear of immigrants and Muslims has manifested in disgusting ways in Canada and other countries. These trends are only too likely to continue with torturous ramifications for those on the frontlines and those caught in the middle of this geopolitical maelstrom.

Race has remained a major issue in 2015. While the issues in Canada have been quieter, the debate around carding and treatment of Black Canadians raises similar questions to what we're seeing in the United States. Emotions remain raw and tensions high in some American quarters. Police abuses continue to go unpunished and institutions seem more poised to protect the status quo rather than revise the existing racial dynamic. The year ends with no charges for the officers who shot and killed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old boy. This year also featured a heated national debate briefly centred on the fight over the place of the Confederate flags in the United States.

For me personally this has been a big year of transitions. I began the year living and working in the Northwest Territories. I have spent the rest of the year unemployed. It has been incredibly challenging, especially with the moving, lacking in purpose and my difficult family dynamics. I am hoping things improve for myself in 2016 and I will leave it at that.

In the wake of a holiday that seeks peace on Earth it seems like that sentiment is badly needed in 2016. It has been a dark and troubling year. Perhaps history will show 2015 as an inflection point before things improve dramatically.

I would like to thank my readers for their ongoing support. You make this project worthwhile. The growing audience suggests that I am on the right path. I hope to make the blog better and continue to explore options for a whole new website. To my readers as we move into 2016 I would like to encourage you to look at your own community and ask how you can make it a better place. What can you contribute to improve the lives of those around you? Given the amount of suffering we have seen clearly in 2015 many could use a hand.

Best wishes to you all, and Happy New Year.


Simon Rasmussen said...

And to you, Steven. This blog fills a much needed space in our political life. Keep up the good work.

janfromthebruce said...

And to you, Steve. I hope you get a great job. I liked reading your blog when you were in the North. Always interesting.

SJL said...

Thank you very much Simon and Jan.

Simon, this blog started as a way to sort out my awkward political position. I'm glad you feel it is filling a void in the conversation.

Jan, the North was a very unusual experience. I think about it often.

Happy New Year!

Jared Milne said...

Hi Steven,

Longtime reader, first time commenter.

I love your blog for the well-reasoned and thoughtful analysis you provide, as well as your fair and balanced considering of the issues (such as your previous reflections on the Idle No More movement)-it's always a pleasure to read someone who doesn't just rigidly adhere to a particular ideology or party.

It's also cool that you're residing in the NWT right now, a part of Canada that doesn't get as much attention as a place like Ontario or my home province of Alberta-I'd love to continue hearing more about your experience living there.

Happy New Year, and good luck on your job hunt-things will look up for you in 2016, I'm sure!

All the best!

SJL said...

Hi Jared,

Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you find something valuable from the blog. Since I left the NWT I try to keep in touch with what's going on up there. I'll be sure to write something about it in 2016.

Happy New Year to you too, and thanks again.