Friday, December 24, 2010

Upon Sitting Down to Revisit My Predictions for 2010

It’s time to revisit the predictions I made at the end of last year for 2010 (“Gazing into my Crystal Ball: Predictions for 2010”, December 29, 2009), just to see whether I can successfully moonlight as an oracle. Like last year, I’ll grade myself on performance (if only everything in life were this way!).

This year, though, I’ll add a twist. Not only will I look at what I predicted, but I’ll also take a short look at what I failed to predict and probably should have!


On the 29th of December, I was reporting that Stephen Harper was considering pro-roguing parliament over the Afghanistan detainee scandal, which I said would continue into 2010. We now know that prorogation took place, in order for the government to “recalibrate” before the budget was released (does anyone remember that the government actually offered that up as the rationale for prorogation?). I further predicted that this story would be “muted” in 2010. I’m going to give myself half marks on that, as the story was anything but “muted” when parliament returned in the spring of 2010, and the Speaker had to rule on an NDP question regarding the release of documents related to the scandal.

But what happened afterwards? The Liberals and Conservatives got together and agreed to form a committee which would look at the documents in secret. The NDP, wisely, said this wasn’t good enough, and determined not to participate. But after mid-summer, when the committee was announced, the whole detainee scandal was sidelined, and we’ve heard nothing more about it.

I also predicted that no one would rock the boat on the 2011 troop withdrawal date. I blew that one completely, as first the Liberals and then their coalition partners in blue decided that our armed forces are going to remain in Afghanistan on a “training” mission past the originally agreed to withdrawal date. No debate in parliament, no fuss no muss. So the boat wasn’t ever really rocked, it all just kind of happened.

I also predicted the fall of the Zardari government in Pakistan. Hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s something to continue to look for, especially as U.S. intervention in that country continues to grow, much to the displeasure of ordinary Pakistanis. In some ways, Zardari might have been saved by a bigger crisis, the massive floods, which left Pakistan in turmoil throughout the end of summer and into the fall.

I’ll give myself a C-.

Double Dip Recession

I predicted a sputtering economy in the fall of 2010, after the pump price of gas spiked to a $1.20 a litre. That hasn’t happened….yet. However, I note that I’ll be travelling to visit with my family in Brampton over the Christmas holidays, and gas prices are at $1.18 here in Sudbury now, the highest they’ve been in 2010. I believe that we’re going to continue to see a climb in gas prices, for although the economic growth has been quite tiny here in Canada in the last quarter (after a little more robust growth in the previous two quarters), the recovery in Asia will continue to drive oil prices upward.

I also predicted that there would be a growing understanding that the recession of 2008 was actually caused by high oil prices, and not a bursting housing bubble or bank meltdowns, which were actually just a symptom of $147 barrel oil. That hasn’t really happened, and most economists continue to lay blame elsewhere.

I do believe, however, that the term and concept of “Peak Oil” has entered the mainstream in 2010, as I predicted.

I’ll give myself a C- on this one too.

North American Cap and Trade

I ambitiously predicted that, by the end of 2010, we’d have a North American Cap and Trade agreement in place, ready to be executed, and talk that Mexico would eventually join the U.S. and Canada. I based that prediction on the notion that President Obama would use some of the momentum gained from the Copenhagen Accord to actually do something about climate change. Boy, did I blow this one.

Cap and Trade, at the end of 2010, is deader than a doornail. Even the voluntary Chicago Climate Exchange announced that it will cease trading credits at the end of this year. With the surge of climate change deniers who will now be occupying seats in the U.S. Congress, most of whom took a pre-election pledge not to raise taxes to deal with climate change, things are looking pretty grim for this method of carbon pricing in North America.

I say good riddance to a bad idea. I have never been a supporter of Cap and Trade, believing that such a carbon pricing scheme will be open to significant corporate manipulation and achieve questionable results in actually reducing carbon. I much prefer a straight-forward tax and tariff system to address carbon pricing, which will put money back into the pockets of average citizens and create new green jobs here in North America. There’s been some talk of “Fee and Dividened” lately, mostly from the environmental community, but it’s starting to enter the mainstream debate. I’m not sold on that approach either, as I would rather tax dollars stayed with governments to help build much-needed infrastructure. Return my income taxes, sure, so that I can choose to spend my hard-earned pay more wisely, and use my carbon tax-generated revenue to build communities.

I have to give myself a big, fat F on this one.

Elizabeth May

I predicted that Elizabeth May would continue to largely be in absentia on the national political scene, and that the Green Party would run the risk of continuing its slide into irrelevancy. Harsh words from a Party supporter, but with merit, I believe.

May has maintained her absence from the national political scene for most of the year. With the exception of a few weeks in August leading up to the BGM in Toronto, when a (predicted) scandal erupted over leadership (which was maybe good for us Greens that no one was really paying attention), May has all but vanished from the national political consciousness. May and the Green Party didn’t even warrant an end of the year comment from Chantal Hebert this year (who last year said that May and the Greens were one of the biggest non-stories of the year. I guess we were such a non-story this year that we weren’t a story at all).

Recent by-elections in Vaughan and Manitoba had some of the poorest showings for our Party ever. In Winnipeg North we barely beat the upstart Pirate Party (who certainly received more coverage than the Green candidate), capturing a pathetic 0.7% of the vote. We had an emerging star, Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain, running in Vaughan, who was endorsed by her NDP opponent, achieved only 1% of the vote.

These numbers should be a wake-up call to the Green Party, but it appears that the Party was largely content to sleepwalk through 2010, focussing instead on internal power-related issues, and rebuilding finances and the administration after a devastating year in which a number of party organizers were let go. At one point in the summer, there were but 2 party organizers available for all ridings across the country. We here in Northern Ontario are now onto our 5th different personality as organizer in the past 11 months.

And then there are the declining membership numbers which we keep hearing about.

However, the Party continues to poll reasonably well nationally, between 8% and 10% (and higher and lower in some polls). And yes, it’s true: voter turn-out in these by-elections were abysmal, and the media focussed only on the controversial (Fantino in Vaughan; all of the other parties in Winnipeg North; no focus at all on Dauphin-Swan River where we achieved a GPC-respectable 5% of the vote). And sure, without an election, membership numbers would be expected to decline. And May’s lack of exposure on the national scene means that she has more time to devote to winning her own riding in Saanich-Gulf Islands, which is our Party’s strategy after all. Sure, those are some valid excuses. Or are they maybe just excuses?

With a federal election around the corner, we’re going to have to do better as a Party. We can expect to see our federal vote share decline nationally – which means that May and her local campaign in SGI is going to be on the hot-seat. If we can help her win in SGI, that will change everything. Another loss…well, I’ll explore these scenarios in my next post.

Reluctantly, I’ll give myself an A+ on this one. Wish I would have blown it.

Fall Federal Election.

OK, so I was off on this one, but likely only by a few months. We did have those by-elections this past fall, though, and I had also predicted that in an election, the Green Party’s message wouldn’t find any resonance. Given that the by-elections were driven only by controversy and personalities, there was little opportunity for any Party’s message to resonate (oh, and the fact that none of the other Party’s had much in the way of a message to begin didn’t help the cause. Only the Conservatives can receive anything close to credit in the message department, given Fantino’s constant thumping of the “law and order” agenda, whatever that is).

A big F for me on this one, too.

Election of Greens to Municipal Councils in Ontario

Yes, a few Greens were elected to municipal councils, including Bob Bell in Guelph. At one time, Bell was listed as the nominated candidate for the Greens in Guelph, but I note that the Party’s website no longer records him as being such. Not sure whether he stepped down to run municipally, or maybe there just issues with the website. We’ve had a nominated candidate in Nickel Belt for some time now, in the person of Christine Guillot-Proulx, but the Party’s website fails to identify her as such, so maybe it’s just a “glitch”…kind of like the Party’s non-posting of Federal Council minutes, but I digress. Or do I digress? No, I’m not going to digress; instead, I’m going to use this space to complain about the sad state of the Party’s online culture. The lack of updates to the website are very troubling, but more so is the fact that we seem to have lost a number of active bloggers since the August BGM.

Where have all the green bloggers gone? Normally, I would rely on the bloggers to write about Greens elected to municipal councils in their communities, but there has been little appearing on blogsites since the November elections. Bloggers across the land appear to have largely gone silent, including those who remain very involved with the Party. For me, this is yet more bad news.

So I don’t know how many Greens were elected municipally, but I understand that there were some. I’ll give myself a B on this because I feel like it.

The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup.

Well really. Who would have predicted the Chicago Black Hawks to win back in December of ’09? I’ll give myself a D- because I still maintain that Chicago should have never won.

Missed Opportunities for Predictions

The U.S. Mid-Term Elections

It’s not like I didn’t know that this was going to happen in 2010. I guess I failed to comment on it because I didn’t believe it was going to be much of a game-changer for us here in Canada. Boy, was I wrong about that. With the incredible rise of the Tea Party in the States, and of Tea-Party politics both there and here, the pro-corporate populists have really set Obama back, and the fallout from what happened south of the border will continue to impact us here for the next several years.

As a result of the corporate-sponsored Tea Party astroturf campaign, a significant number of climate change deniers and radical conservatives have been elected to Congress promising to cut taxes, take no action on global warming, and continue expensive wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, the Sudan, Iran and wherever else U.S. enemies of the state need a good lickin. Lately, that apparently includes Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, and the latest “terrorist” to enter U.S. gunsights.

I can not under estimate the importance of the sea-change which swept across the American political landscape this past November. Obama, despite some very recent successes with arms limitation talks and tax cuts, is gravely wounded. Unless he can find himself a good war to fight (and FYI, a “good war” won’t be found on the Korean peninsula; I’m thinking maybe Yemen or Pakistan), he’s being set up as a one-term failure. And I think that’s going to be the case even if Sarah Palin gets here Party’s nomination for 2012.

The fallout for Canada has offered the Conservatives the ability to continue to do nothing about just about everything. With the U.S. gripped by legislative paralysis, Canada will continue to follow suit, doing as little as possible in parliament.

The Democratic Deficit

I should have said something about this issue, which was really on display in Canada throughout 2010. From the G8/G20 (which was on my mind back in December of ’09), to the killing of parliamentary approved climate change legislation in the unelected Senate, to the unsourced $18 billion purchase of stealth fighters, to the long form census, to Afghanistan, to muzzled parliamentary watchdogs…Our Conservative government, aided by the Liberals (and recently the NDP as well, if rumours of the imminent demise of Bill C-12 are to be believed), has been doing its darndest to ensure that parliament continues to slide into irrelevancy. With power being increasingly consolidated in that bundle of sticks in cabinet and especially in the Prime Minister’s office, some have started to use the dreaded “F” word to describe what appears to be going on in government today.

The BP Oil Spill

OK, I couldn’t really have predicted this one, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless, for what this story has become. When the spill was taking place, it was being described as “the Three Mile Island of deepwater oil exploration” or “oilpocalypse”. What happened? If you recall, the spill was capped, we were told that a good percentage of the stray oil had been rounded up by skimmers, and the rest just seemed to have disappeared, no fuss no muss. And the story went away. And the spill disappeared from the public’s consciousness. We moved on to the next disaster scene (well, maybe not the next, which would have been in Pakistan, but since there weren’t any TV cameras on the ground there to capture the misery, we just kind of glossed over that one).

What the spill continues to show me is that the mainstream media continue to have incredible power at their disposal. This power shapes every facet of our society, and can not ever be under estimated. And with the mainstream media’s right-wing bias permeating so much of its reporting, and with the changing nature of journalism itself, moving from fact-based information reporting to opinion-based infotainment, the media’s power may represent one of the biggest obstacles we face in the next decade which will stand in the way of our taking action on the things which we need to do. The media will continue to support the status quo of the brown economy, and the vested interests of the corporate world at the expense of the middle class. What happened with the BP is illustrative of their power to both inform (albeit with considerable bias) and to cast a spell on us to forget.

Report Card

So what’s that…two C minuses, three F’s, a B and a lone A+, along with a few missed assignments. Not exactly a Report Card to be proud of. Thank goodness that mom doesn't have to sign off on this. All in all, I think I’ll have to stick to my day job.

Next week, I’ll offer my predictions for the new year. And maybe I’ll get ambitious and offer predictions for the new decade as well (yes, I’m one of “those guys” who insist that the decade starts with the year numbered “1”, and not at zero like a car’s odometer. The good news for me is that I’ll be celebrating the end of the first decade of the millennium next week, while you’ll just be ushering in another odd-numbered year).


thwap said...

I don't think that I make many predictions, but you seem to have had yourself some fun here.

I think I'll try to make some predictions for 2011 over the next couple of days.

Sudbury Steve said...

Yes, it is a lot of fun to try to predict the future, especially when so little is at stake! Somebody should try making one of those adult board games out of the concept.

I'll be checking in on your own post a link here if you're able!