Winding Down 2006: The Year That Was

2004 was the year of the loonie.  I dubbed 2005 the year of the politician.  So where does that leave us with when it comes to 2006?  How about the year of “political change.”  With a change of government at the federal level and significant change at the municipal level, change is surely on the way.

I don’t know Mayor Randy Hope very well.  However, I know him a little bit from his sojourn as MPP in 1990-95.  At the time I found him to be a refreshing breeze in a hot political landscape.  He was a young man, one who surely had his challenges and triumphs during the tough Ontario recession of the early 1990’s.  When he was defeated in 1995, I felt the former Kent County had lost a real advocate of the people.

After that, I never knew what happened to him.  We are the same age so I often wondered.  Little did I know he’d burst back onto the political stage earlier this year.  He wrote me a note.  We exchanged email, even a holler out the window of his car at the Dresden Santa Claus parade.  However, we’ve never had a chance to compare notes of the last decade.  Now that’s he’s Mayor, I’m sure we’re on a collision course.

He certainly faces big challenges as we careen into 2007.  As I’ve said many times, Chatham-Kent must stop its out-migration of people.  As one of the only municipalities on the 401 corridor, which is losing population, we need change.  People not only need a reason to stay here, but others need a reason to come.  In 2007, Mayor Randy Hope needs to forge that vision.

Stephen Harper’s future is much less certain than Mayor Randy Hope’s.  Last January he snatched government away from the Liberals.  This was after both parties fought hard locally for votes.  I was not involved in the election campaign.  However, in my capacity as an agricultural economist/evangelist I found myself invited several times to political events.  With Harper’s victory in January many local farmers felt they’d finally get the stabilization policy their commodity groups had been working toward.

It hasn’t worked out that way.  On six different occasions over the last year I participated in farm rallies to help garner that support.  When the federal budget came down in May, farmers thought they had hit pay dirt.  The Conservatives had announced 1.5 billion in agricultural safety net funding.  However, as we jump into 2007 next week, not one dime has reached the ground.  In short, the Conservatives have been a real disappointment in Chatham-Kent farm country.

Harper’s moves have been striking.  He decreased the GST, started Senate reform, called the “Quebecois” a nation and started dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board.  He has benefited from a Canadian economy, which continues to grow.  Yes, Afghanistan is a problem, but new Liberal leader Stephane Dion is on the same side of that issue.  For any objective Canadian sitting on the sidelines, the Harper government has been a real change.

That might continue but not like you think.  As we look into what might be 2007 there could be even more political change.  I like Stephane Dion, always have.  He might come across as a little wobbly or wonkish, but in my opinion he’s one of the smartest men ever to vie for that job.  The Liberals are not far behind the Conservatives in the present day seat count.  With Harper set to lose rural seats, the Liberals in 2007 have a chance to make him an aberration.  I say we’ll go to the polls in April or May 2007.

As reasonable guys go, so goes my main man George W. Bush.  As many of you know my East West co-hort Dr. A.K. Enamul Haque would faint if he read that.  Editor John Gardiner is no fan either.  As 2006 grows cold “Dubya” isn’t looking so good.  Even he knows the Iraq war is not being won.  In the November elections, the Democrats seized control of both Houses of congress.  It would seem that the American people don’t think the “George W. Bush” way is the reasonable way ahead.  The new congress will surely forge change ahead for the most powerful country in the world.

A wise man once said it’s not what you plan for which upsets you.  It’s that earth-shaking event which happens on some unexpected Tuesday.  In 2006 North Korea’s Kim Jong II held the key to that riddle.  His missile testing and his successful nuclear test in 2006 caused much nervousness in Asia.  One wrong way nuke in 2007 will surely set the world on its ear.  One stray bullet in Israel, one terrorist event in Europe or North America or another natural disaster in the world could do it too.

Nobody ever wants to go there, but somehow we end up there anyway.  In 2007 maybe if we try hard, it’ll be the year when peace breaks out.  A little common sense would work too.