Sunday, December 28, 2008

Top 10 Canadian News Stories of 2007 - Where Are They Now?

So the year is almost at its end and I’m sure we’ll see lots of blogs doing lists of the biggest stories of 2008, and I’ll be putting up a few year-end summary posts over the next few days, but I thought for a change I would take a look back at what I named as the biggest stories of 2007 (in no particular order of importance) and see where they are now.

1) The inability of the Conservatives to increase their popularity:
At the end of last year they seemed unable to ever crack 40% in the polls despite controlling the agenda. In the end they did increase their seat count, but managed only 1.5% gain in the popular vote from the last election despite spending millions more in ads than any of the other parties. While they finally got over 40% over their smear campaign on the coalition, the latest polls showed them back below 40% and I suspect that’s where they’ll stay. Maybe some day soon Conservatives will realize Stephen Harper to be the led weight on his party’s popularity that he is.

2) The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali:
I was disappointed to see the issue of the environment fall off the radar in the past several months. Of course the Green Shift figured prominently in the last election, but the misleading negative frame of it won out to the detriment of the environment. Meanwhile Harper is getting way too much of a pass for his mismanagement of this file and he’s clearly not prepared to change his ways, as at the last G8 Conference in Hokkaido the latest climate change conference in Poland just saw a repeat of the obstruction at Bali. The environment will come back as an issue, it will be up the Liberals to make sure they own the issue and can sell their approach when it does.

3) The Afghanistan detainee scandal:
This was a major disgrace for Canada on the world stage and I actually don’t remember much mention of it during the last campaign. That’s a shame because the treatment of detainees remains an ongoing issue that I don’t believe was satisfactorily resolved and that the Conservatives have badly mismanaged from the beginning. Canada and progressive parties should never let human rights abuses fall off the radar.

4) The Elizabeth May-Dion deal:
I think a lot of people would argue this ended badly for the Liberals, but it’s unclear. One could make the case that it angered some grassroots Liberals that they wouldn’t be running candidates in 308 ridings and that Dion lent more legitimacy to the Green Party than he should have. However, one could also argue that with the Green party polling still around 10% right up until days before the election and with them only scoring just over 6% on E-day that the Dion-May deal helped send a good chunk of Green voters our way that may have helped save several seats across the country. I’m sure that without such a deal you wouldn’t have seen Elizabeth May encouraging Green supporters to vote Liberal in places where the Greens weren’t competitive. Will Michael Ignatieff agree to repeat the deal in the next election? We’ll see.

5) The Quebec by-elections (Sept 17):
Despite what many said at the time this actually ended up being a pretty poor omen of how we would end up doing in Quebec in the general election. Those who were upset with Dion forecasted that the loss of Outremont was an omen of impending disaster in the province, but in the end that was the only place where we saw improvements over the last election. Meanwhile, Conservatives forecasted that their win in Roberval was a sign of Stephen Harper eventually cleaning up in Quebe. Goes to show by-elections are sometimes just that and not really omens of anything.

6) The Ontario election:
We continue to get sound, competent government from the McGuinty government since he won his second majority. Unlike Stephen Harper he has enacted policies that will be important for the LONG-TERM health of the province he represents and at that time same he has taken great strides to combat poverty and help those who will be hardest hit by the economic crisis. This is polar opposite of Stephen Harper’s short-term (whatever he thinks will get him a majority) forget about the poor (or anyone that won’t likely vote Conservative) approach.

Meanwhile, I had predicted the Ontario election would spell the end of John Tory and as 2008 wraps up it’s becoming increasingly likely that may now officially become the case.

7) The Quebec election:
Well what do you know, we’ve just had another Quebec election. The story last year was the rise of Mario Dumont’s ADQ and thankfully this year’s actually saw their dramatic downfall. Thanks to Dumont’s spectacular collapse Jean Charest now has the majority he was denied in 2007.

8) Canada’s backsliding on human rights:
Despite Stephen Harper’s support for the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, Canada’s human rights record has fared no better in 2008 than in 2007. Harper still supports the death penalty for Canadians abroad and Canadians being detained at Guantanamo Bay, he still turns a blind eye to the abuses of Canadian mining companies in parts of the 3rd world, he still won’t support the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and he’s still all too happy to sign a free trade deal with Columbia without any regard for their human rights record.
We can’t let Canadians forget about how Harper has tarnished Canada’s once proud reputation on human rights. With Obama closing Guantanamo and insisting on a human rights review before ratifying free trade deals, we run the risk of having the worst human rights record in the Western world in 2009.

9) The scandal-plagued RCMP:
In my 2007 review I said “From the pension scandal, Air India fumblings, continuing fall-out over the O’Conner report on Maher Arar (I know that was the fall of 2006, but close enough), the appalling handling of the taser scandal and so many more embarrassing stories, this year has not been kind the Mounties. It is increasingly clear they definitely need a substantial overhaul and hopefully that starts to happen in 2008.”
The last line is just as valid today as it was then and obviously not substantial overhaul took place.

10) Mulroney-Schreiber:
This has fallen off the radar but I suspect once the public inquiry formally starts calling witnesses it will gain attention again. Past testimony in committee has in recent months been called into question and I’m sure as much as Mulroney wishes he could, I don’t think he’ll avoid the hot seat in 2009.

If you want to see what I said about these issues at the end of last year take a look at the post HERE.

So there you have it. With a year that’s passed it’s interesting to see that even though a lot has changed in Canadian politics in the past 12 months, much remains the same. At the same none of these 10 stories will be showing up in my list for 2008.

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