Putting 2008 In The Rear View Mirror


Putting 2008 behind us will be welcome for many Canadians.  Unprecedented could be one word to use.  When you have our old friend former federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admit he was all wrong about the world economy, you know it was an economic year to remember.  With bombs currently raining down on Gaza, 2008 seems to be coming to a fitting end.  Way back last December, nobody could see any of this coming.

So predicting the future is such a flyer.  However, this time of year it’s the rage and based on what happened last year, why not take some shots in the dark.  Did somebody muse that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be hoisting the cup this coming June?  Will the Blue Jays and Tigers fight it out for American League supremacy come October?  Will the Detroit Lions win a game in 2009?  Ok, I’m becoming delusional.  Who knows, maybe if we’re lucking I’ll be serenading Celine Dion at our own Capital Theatre by the end of 2009.  Then of course there is always our economy to think about.

I had written extensively about the sub-prime mortgage problem for several months at the time.  It never did quite add up to me and it’s impact seemed so distant to Canadian shores.  However, it didn’t take long.  Over a period of a couple months banks and credit started drying up in the United States.  Speculators in the grain world’s commodity markets started to exit, grabbing hold of anything tangible to sell for cash.  It started slowly but when Bear Stearns went down followed later by Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG, the selling turned into a torrent.  Rumour, innuendo and a certain amount of “panic” made things worse.  Clearly, a global economic contraction was foisted upon everybody.  Oil went from $147 in July to about $35 today.  The ethanol complex teetered.   Commodities and stocks got caught in the once in 70 year financial Tsunami.  Nobody could have predicted it.

Can we recover?  Yes, we can!  If there are three words which will bring this thing back in January it is those.  Yes we can!  Barack Obama soared to the US Presidency in 2008 and I mean soared.  He beat Hillary Clinton who I had picked for President, essentially out-foxing her politically for the Democratic nomination and then transforming racial divisions to beat John McCain.  It was an election that changed the United States forever and it also has the potential to give this global economy something, which isn’t tangibly evident.  Barack Obama when he becomes President offers hope and confidence to a world hungry for it.  I expect that alone to have a huge impact on our marketing and financial world.  Yes we can.

In 2008 Stephen Harper didn’t think ordinary folks cared about rich people enjoying their artistic galas at taxpayers expense.  He might have been right, but in Quebec it was turned on its head as an attack on the Quebec nation.  He lost his chance for a majority there.  Six weeks later he decided to cut off the opposition parties lifeline by the elimination of political subsidies.  That almost and may still cost him his career as so far he’s only been bailed out by the Governor General.  This on going soap opera grips Canada still.

In Chatham-Kent it is more of the same.  We are losing population, the only place in southern Ontario where this is taking place.  We need immigrants and a lot less navel gazing.  It’s hard to just sit down and mix up a pot of success, but when it comes to Chatham-Kent, it all starts with the size of the pot.  What’s needed is some political vision of where we want to be in 2009, 2010 and beyond.  Our mayor has it, but the rest of us have to get on the bus too.  If you believe in the status quo and don’t want to get anywhere, there you’ll be.  As we move ahead in this troubled economy, what we as citizens of Chatham-Kent can do for ourselves, might be the greatest litmus test.

So now we’re talking about a $30 billion Canadian federal deficit, an American economy staggered by a credit market gone, and stock markets in spite of recent gains, still wondering if we’ve hit bottom.  Looking ahead based on what’s happened in 2008, isn’t predicting for 2009 a fool’s game?  I dunno, so maybe coalition leader Prime Minister Ignatieff, Jack Layton as Industry minister, $2/litre gas and 15% interest rates might be in the mix for this time next year.  As I said, I dunno.  Let’s just hope for some stability and look back on 2008 as many lessons learned.