2011 reviewed

It’s year end! Well, almost.

It’s close enough, however. And, as such, it’s that time of year when members of the commentariat come up with lists of who won, who lost, what was best, what wasn’t, blah blah blah. Lacking an imagination, as I do, herewith is my list of Top Five Really Important Political Stuff in 2011.

(It’s the same list I rolled out on Krista Erickson’s much-watched Sun News show and she liked it so much, I offer it to y’all, here.) In reverse order:

5. Canada’s Getting More Conservative: Some days, it sure looks that way.

For most of the last century, Liberals utterly dominated the federal scene and it was Conservatives who were relegated to the misery of provincial capitals. Now, the roles are reversed and the Grits look unlikely to form a government anytime soon. The reason? Stephen Harper. The charisma-free zone that is our prime minister brought together the warring factions of the right, imposed discipline on the troglodytes who dominated his backbenches and set about destroying the Libs. Mainly, Harper won through a merger — and, amazingly, he has scared his two main opponents out of ever saying the word “merger” out loud. He has made Canada more conservative as a result.

But after he goes, will anyone be able to hold together the coalition he’s created? In a word: no.

4. Harper’s the Teflon Man: To the chagrin of progressives and newspaper columnists, Stephen Harper has weathered scandals that would have toppled many of his predecessors. The Bruce Carson and Rahim Jaffer lobby sleaze?

Voters shrugged. The In-and-Out scandal guilty pleas? Voters yawned. The G8 summit and Peter MacKay serial spending sprees? Voters slept. The sleazy campaigns against Irwin Cotler and others? Voters changed the channel. So far, then, the Conservative leader has truly been the Teflon Man of Canadian politics — no amount of sleaze sticks to him. The long-form census mess — and the outrage of his prorogation stunt — demonstrate that he isn’t Superman, however. Sooner or later, an issue will come along that inflames Canadians — and, possibly, burns Harper’s regime to the ground.

3. Canada Is An Island: No man is, John Donne famously observed, but Canada certainly seems to be — economically, at least. While the debt contagion spread unchecked through Europe, claiming countless political lives — and while a battered U.S. economy has stirred up Tea Party fury and threatens to consign Barack Obama to the dustbin of single-term presidents — Canada is doing comparatively quite well. Following in the footsteps of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty haven’t jettisoned regulation of our financial sector — and they have embraced decidedly liberal stimulus to keep the Canadian economy afloat, too. Are we immune to the serial fiscal crises that continue to rock our allies? Of course not.

But so far, so good.

2. Choose Change!: Or Don’t. During tough economic times, the political wisdom has always been that voters will opt for “change” over the status quo. In 2011 A.D. in Canada, that political truism was left in tatters. In Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland, P.E.I. and the Yukon — as well as federally, of course — governments of myriad stripes withstood scandals and economic downturns, and were handily re-elected. In some places — like Ontario, where I was proudly a Dalton McGuinty volunteer — we even came back from a double-digit deficit to win big. Why? Because, per point three, Canada is an oasis of relative economic calm. Voters don’t want to mess with a good thing and, on election day, they didn’t.

1. Harper and Layton Win Big, Ignatieff Loses Big: This, without a doubt, was the biggest political story of the year. When the campaign kicked off, who woulda thunk it: Harper finally wins his lusted-after majority, Jack Layton wins more than 100 seats to become Opposition leader, and Michael Ignatieff is reduced to third-party status and forced to resign. No one — and I mean no one — saw any of that coming. It was more than historic: It was extraordinary and it reminded us why adrenalin junkies are so attracted to politics in the first place.

And what will 2012 bring politically? Next week: The political crystal ball gets dusted off!


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