Preview of the year ahead

Last week’s column reviewed many of the biggest federal political stories of 2012, so this week it’s time to look forward and see what may be in store for us in 2013.
As 2012 came to a close, the “Idle No More” movement was ramping up and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike continued.
The prime minister and Governor General met with many chiefs to discuss important outstanding issues, including the protection of treaty rights, but the movement and the hunger strike continue as no real progress has been made—yet.
Many questions on this file remain in 2013. Will the prime minister do more window dressing, as he always has on First Nation-related issues, or will he actually commit to and carry out substantive action?
Will the “Idle No More” movement wind down, or pick up steam if Mr. Harper chooses not to act on its key demands?
The prime minister and finance minister also took great pains over the winter to emphasize that the Canadian economy is still in a “fragile” state. It seemed like a bit of understatement to me as GDP growth stalled for the final six months of 2012 while U.S. economic growth continued to accelerate under President Obama’s leadership.
So what will 2013 bring for the global and Canadian economies? Will the housing market collapse begin, as many suggest, or will the bubble slowly deflate as others maintain?
What will the 2012-13 federal deficit end up being after all the paperwork comes in?
Let’s hope Mr. Flaherty can keep it under $25 billion as he has promised. But he has never hit his own deficit reduction targets on a year over year basis, so you’ll have to excuse if I’m not as optimistic as he is.
Associated with the weak Canadian economy, the Conservatives also will be presenting their second majority budget sometime early in the 2013. We know the Tories are in a hurry to rewrite Canada’s laws under the guise of the federal budget legislation, but will that process accelerate this year or have they learned their lesson from the growing public dissatisfaction with the use of so-called “omnibus” legislation?
With economic growth in Canada expected to be just 1.7 percent in 2013, will there be more stimulus or are the Conservatives betting on others to help the Canadian economy recover and catch up to the U.S.?
Early in the new year, the federal Liberals also will pick their new leader. It would be tempting—but also foolish—for New Democrats, Conservatives, and others to ignore the importance of the process that’s currently underway in that party.
The truth is that the choice of leader for the Liberals will have an impact on what happens in the next year, but also what choices are offered to voters in the 2015 election.
Will the Liberals anoint the heir apparent? Are there any surprises in store from the frontrunner or from one or more of the underdogs? What new policies or innovations will come from the process?
I have other questions, but I will be kind as the Liberals lick their wounds and re-organize for the next little while.
Finally, one thing that’s always a sure bet is that something big will happen this year that will have a dramatic impact on Canadian politics—and we likely won’t see it coming.
In 2012, it was the emergence of the “Idle No More” movement, which caused the prime minister to stop his meetings with Nickleback and Quebec reality show winners and formally sit down with chiefs and representatives of many First Nations to establish a process for negotiations on treaty rights and other important issues facing their communities.
The year before, the NDP had our electoral breakthrough and became Official Opposition only a few months before losing Jack Layton.
No one saw those events coming, so what’s in store this year. A retirement from the government benches? Maybe a key Supreme Court ruling? I don’t know what it will be, but I do know that events this year will surprise us—just as they have every year before.
Parliament resumes sitting next week and I’m sure we’ll start to get some answers to the many questions posed above, and probably some we’ve never contemplated.
With all the ups and downs that are sure to come, let’s hope 2013 is as happy and prosperous as it can be for our community, our friends, and our families. On that I’m sure we can agree.

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