We are preparing to turn yet another leaf to welcome a new year. Wise men say in order to be able to see the future, one has to look at the past. As the occasion is the start of a new year, it might be appropriate to look at what happened in our town, province and country in 2015 to try to guess what might or should happen in 2016.
At the local level, Town of Ponoka has had to deal with two major issues: Breakdown of management in town administration and as a direct result of that, the fire services conflict that erupted with the county. Neither of these problems has reached definitive conclusions. After the dismissal of the former CAO, the town has yet to find a permanent replacement in addition to having to deal with a lawsuit brought by the same party, while the fire services controversy still needs a solution, hopefully to be found as early as the Jan. 12 regular meeting of the town council, unless councillors refusing to cooperate with the county on the matter decide to dig in their heels.
At the provincial level, the only success of Ms. Notley’s government so far has been to make a mess of their first six months in office. Bill 6, and after that Bill 8, went a long way to prove wrong those who claimed that Rachel Notley, coming from a family of a serious politician, would not be making clumsy moves in establishing herself and the NDP as a serious political force. So far, with her recruitment of policy advisers and senior bureaucrats, Ms. Notley unwittingly inflicted great damage to her chances to govern the province effectively.
At the national level, the electorate decided that it was time for a sea change in the country’s political orientation and brought in Liberals in a decisive show of support for the young Trudeau. The change of tone in government was noticeable almost from day one, with the new government taking bold steps both to restore Canada’s international image as a humane and caring nation and to ensure that First Nations would not be treated as second-rate citizens of this country any longer. But the new government also immediately realized that economy would not be as easy a file as it seemed before the election and the new finance minister shared his concerns with both the public and the provincial/territorial governments.
Outlook for 2016
In Ponoka, the town council has to move decisively and in unison if the mayor and councillors have any intention to face local voters in two year’s time once again. Precious time has been lost with unnecessary controversies and residents are expecting efficient management in addressing the various issues the town is facing.
In the province, Ms. Notley and her ministers need to realize that there is Alberta beyond Edmonton, too, and they also have the responsibility to serve that Alberta as well. Provincial government will need to find a better way of communicating with all the population of the province, in particular by improving their listening skills. With oil prices certain to remain at about the current levels for most of 2016, the government will have to come up with creative ideas to turn the slump around and nurture the hope among Albertans that things can and will get better.
At the national level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have to make good on his promises to return the economy to growth and create jobs, even at the cost of big deficits, in order to maintain the positive image he has so far created mostly at his international engagements with world leaders and his young female fans. The settlement of the promised 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada in the first few months of the new year will be a major test of the new government’s ability to manage the bureaucracy and mobilize resources for a particular objective.
And at the global level, the new year does not look likely to be less tumultuous than the outgoing one: Middle East conflicts are likely to get worse before one can even start to talk about solutions; refugee crisis is still nowhere near a settlement; naval tensions in the South China Sea among US, Chinese and Japanese forces are rising; the undeclared war in Ukraine may flare up any day. In technology, pundits predict the start of the demise of the smart phone technology and the rise of “virtual reality” products. As for the economy, the high-risk bond market has started to emit signals similar to those at the start of the 2008 meltdown, whether the markets will be able to weather that storm is anybody’s guess.
Happy New Year!