To say 2018 didn’t see some major political events both here and abroad would be an understatement. Here in Canada we had three provincial elections and all three resulted in a small c conservative party forming government. For conservatives, this was a great year as at the beginning of the year, only two provinces with less than 7% of the population had small c conservative governments, while now 5 provinces with 70% of the population do. For the Liberals, at least at the provincial level, this was a disaster and probably a year most would like to forget about. Worst showing since confederation in the two largest provinces while went from 6 provinces represent 2/3 of the population with Liberal governments to only 3 and one territory with a mere 5% of the population. For the NDP it was a good but not great year. They had their second best showing ever in Ontario and formed official opposition, but still failed to form government despite having the best conditions possible since 1990. Also Quebec Solidaire which while not aligned officially, is a left wing party like the NDP and it both doubled its vote and seat count while for the first time winning seats off the island of Montreal. Sure it is still a long ways from forming government, but you have to start somewhere. A terrible year for separatists with the PQ being reduced to a rump on the extreme eastern fringes of the province. A very good year for the Greens as they won their first seat ever in Ontario, won a second seat in a by-election in PEI (making it the 2nd province to have more than one Green member) and won 3 seats in New Brunswick making it the third province with more than one Green member. As such for the Trudeau government, they had mostly ideological aligned provincial governments up until this year, but now provincial-federal relations have definitely taken a turn for the worse.
Below are my thoughts moving West to East. The NDP in BC hasn’t done a great job, but hasn’t been a disaster like in the 90s; at least not yet. The new leader Andrew Wilkinson was not the best choice, though still better than the NDP and I will happily support him when the next election arrives even if I believe he was not the best choice. Very happy the PR referendum was defeated and also happy it was so decisively. Hopefully this will put the issue to bed for quite some time. In Alberta things have been not going too well and I understand their frustration, still I feel talk about separation or ending equalization is unhelpful. The focus should be one on still trying to get the pipeline through, but also diversifying the economy so they are less prone to oil price shocks. For Saskatchewan, they have Scott Moe who is either the most popular premier or tied with Francois Legault. So far he seems okay but too early to form a strong opinion. In Ontario, the Wynne Liberals were thankfully turfed from office as well as the province avoided the disaster of the NDP, but not happy the PCs choose Ford. They should have chosen Christine Elliott or at least Caroline Mulroney. I feel their choice of Ford will bite them in the long term. That being said he has a strong cabinet and he should let them have more freedom to decide the direction in their portfolios due to his lack of experience. Also his chief of staff Dean French needs to go, while he needs to stop trying to settle scores with those he dislikes. Being premier means being willing to listen and respect everyone including those who didn’t vote or won’t vote for your party. I was disappointed Philippe Couillard suffered a humiliating defeat. After his success in turning around Quebec’s finances, I don’t feel this was deserved. At the same time I generally like Francois Legault and believe he will continue to lead Quebec in the right direction fiscally. I was glad to see the PQ crushed and hope Quebec separatism is on its way out. Happy to see another tax and spend liberal, Brian Gallant lose in New Brunswick and think Blaine Higgs has the potential to be a good premier, but worried about the People’s Alliance holding the balance of power. Hopefully they will be like the Greens in BC and just go along with everything he does and not have any influence. The other three Atlantic provinces choose their new PC leaders, but don’t know enough on any of them to really comment.
At the federal level, this has been a rather rocky year for Trudeau with some self inflicted mistakes like the India trip, but also a few good things such as saving NAFTA. Certainly in polling, this is the first year where multiple polls have at various points showed him tied or behind the Tories meaning while he is still favoured to win next year(I will have more on this in my next post), it isn’t quite a foregone conclusion as it seemed in the previous two years. Jagmeet Singh has been invisible and a complete dud. I thought he would excite millennials and make inroads amongst ethnic communities but has not happened. Maybe once on the campaign trail he will surprise us but so far that has not happened. Andrew Scheer has been a mixed bag and I still want to see the platform before judging (Most leaders don’t show their cards too early), but I hope he focuses on Blue Liberal/Red Tory swing voters, not pandering to the base since if he does the latter it will be tough for me to vote Tory and also bad for the country too as I believe it is essential you have a competitive alternative to keep the governing party in check. I certainly feel Trudeau is at times too condescending towards those with different views and that just contributes more to polarization as well as is not helpful. While unlikely, I wish he would get rid of Gerald Butts since although his willingness to play wedge politics might be good politics since more lean left than right, it is bad for the country as we need to find ways to unite not divide people and despite what he says, Trudeau is quite divisive not a uniter. As for Maxime Bernier, I am not too disappointed he left and I hope he takes all the nutbars and fringe types with him. While he has some good ideas, he is way too ideological overall and we need someone who decides based on what works and doesn’t, not on what side of the spectrum a given policy falls.
On municipal politics, disappointed Kennedy Stewart won as I see him as Gregor Robertson II, but considering how left wing Vancouver has become, I was at least glad it was close. I was very pleased to see John Tory win a landslide. He shows that middle of the road politics still sells and we need more people like him in politics. Sadly when you have political parties, it is the ideological base not middle of the road majority that choose the leader. Disappointed though that racist Faith Goldy got 3% and Islamophobe Kevin Johnson got 13% in Mississauga. While parties may be good at screening out extremists, it shows unfortunately we are not totally immune to far right populism.
Looking abroad, several events happened and most show right wing populism is still on the rise sadly, but where its effects have been seen people are having second thoughts. The US midterms were a strong repudiation of Trumpism due to heavy congressional losses as well as losing seven governor’s mansions and multiple state legislative seats. Yes the senate went in his favour, but the map this time was heavily favourable to the GOP. While maybe not as big a landslide as I had hoped for the Democrats, it is clear many are not happy with Trump pandering to his base and with the economy doing really well, he could be in big trouble if it tanks before November 2020 which is a strong possibility. Disappointed to see Brazil elect a hard right president, Bolsonaro; I think people in Brazil should be very worried about him. Hopefully the legislature will keep him in check. Also this should be a warning that when things turn badly, if mainstream politicians don’t deal with the issues, people will vote for those on the extremes and we’ve seen this a lot in Latin America. Before this many were on the far left like Venezuela and Bolivia. In Europe, Italy has elected a right wing populist government which doesn’t seem to be doing too well. Putin off course won big again in a sham election. Brexit is going off the rails and in some ways I almost feel sorry for May as I think she has a near impossible task. My view is they should take the deal since asides from cancelling it outright, this is probably the best they will get even if imperfect. That being said while a hard Brexit is worrisome, a Corbyn prime-minister is even worse no matter what happens on Brexit. Angela Merkel will be stepping down and the CDU/CSU choose AKK as her successor who is very much middle of the road and quite similar to Merkel as opposed to Merz who is more conservative so good to see there are some conservative parties abroad that prefer the middle of the road over more ideological types. Moving to the Far East, China has been a lot in the news, especially with Huawei and now the two jailed Canadians. Dealing with China is no doubt very difficult and you need to have the right strategy as they are very clever and unlike most democracies who worry about the next election cycle, they think long term. We have to maintain open dialogue, but also must realize they will always do what is best for them so we shouldn’t rely on them doing our bidding.