The media is, of course, full of reports about what happened, for better or worse, in 2016 and what will likely matter in 2017. For example: a team of journalists including John Ivison and David Akin take a look back in the National Post, and on the CBC website the Power & Politics panel ruminate on the year ahead. There are, of course, many others in similar modes.
In my opinion, Prime Minister Trudeau had, almost, a very good year and he had every right, throughout most of it, to feel more than just a bit smug. From his election in October 2015 right up until a series of gaffes late in 2016 he remained high in national and international public esteem and he and his government did accomplish a few good, important things for which they deserve some credit.
Starting from the bottom, I have long agreed with the National Post team that Harjit Sajjan is, at best, a weak minister of national defence and, at worst, just a shallow, token placeholder who will, loyally, oversee the evisceration of the Canadian military because it is not part of Justin Trudeau’s feminist~green agenda. But, I still think that Minister Maryam Monsef might be worse because of her mishandling of the electoral reform file which, I believe, may be more important for the LPC‘s reelection prospects than the defence portfolio. I also agree with the National Post that this government’s apparent commitment to science and R&D is most welcome and good for the country. Well done, Team Trudeau! I’m not so sure I agree on the worth of Trade Minister Freeland, but her department, at least, does deserve credit for getting the CETA back on the rails after the Wallonia fiasco ~ another well done for Team Trudeau. Further, CBC News reports that “International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says she’s tentatively booked to have her first face-to-face discussion with China in February as Canada explores a free trade agreement with the country … [and] … She’s also hoping to fill her dance card with the U.K.’s trade secretary, Liam Fox, as that country wiggles out of the European Union.” That’s very good news and if she can make progress on those files I will eat some crow and change my opinion of her.
I suspect that Prime Minister Trudeau will be forgiven the Castro eulogy and “elbowgate”and so on, but I think the “cash for access” scandal (and I believe it is a scandal) will do real, measurable, serious harm to him, personally, and to the Liberal brand unless and until he takes really quite drastic steps to resolve it. I said, a few weeks ago that he could distance himself from the Trudeau foundation but I’m not sure that will be enough any more. Maybe the whole Trudeau foundation needs to be closed down.
Looking towards 2017, I think that our fiscal situation will be a HUGE challenge. I believe the Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were monumentally careless in their spending in 2016 and I think that will come back to haunt us in 2017 and beyond as our economy stagnates while others grow.
As I have said, several time, I think the “free ride” on defence spending that Team Trudeau assumes is permanent will end, thanks to President elect Donald Trump’s economic woes. This will further complicate Bill Morneau’s job. Additionally, I suspect that the peacekeeping mission to Africa is going to turn sour, quickly, for any number of reasons, including casualties and public perceptions. Another problem for weak Minister Sajjan.
I think that relations with first nations will be problematical, especially given the pressing need to get Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s energy (oil and natural gas) to tidewater … pipelines and the “national good” will, once again, clash with aboriginal rights and aspirations. Prime Minister Trudeau’s ability to juggle priorities and keep all the balls in the air will be tested in 2017.
Other challenges include finding a suitable replacement for Governor General David Johnston who, as iPolitcs reports, is due to retire in September. I have made my views known and I stand by my contention that Senator Chantal Petitclerc is highly suitable for the role: an inspirational leader who can connect, in both official languages, with all Canadians.
In the international arena: Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS will commit new outrages, possibly even in Canada; the ongoing wars and revolutions in North Africa, the Middle East and South West Asia will continue apace and we will still not have any fresh, new, good ideas about how to “help;” rumours abound that Xi Jinping, who will enter his send five year term in office in 2017, will manoeuvre for a longer stay in office; in Europe Prime Minister Theresa May will struggle with courts and bureaucracies as she tries to engineer a “soft” Brexit; in Germany Angela Merkel may have trouble being reelected to a fourth term as Chancellor; Italy will remain unstable; France may get a populist, nativist, anti-EU right wing government; and Vladimir Putin will continue to press ahead with his opportunistic adventurism and that will remain the main threat to world peace and security …
… but, in my quesstimation, the newsmaker of the year, in Canada and the world, and the biggest thorn in Prime Minister Trudeau’s side will be …
… President elect Donald Trump. We are still guessing about his agenda regarding America’s and the world’s many and varied concerns, but Canada, as America’s neighbour, closest friend and ally and biggest trading partner, is bound to feel the impacts.