Well, we made it through another year. 2022 certainly had its challenges and interesting times. Three elections and a leadership race, convoy blockades across the country, the death of a Queen and a Pope, an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, lingering effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, and a heavy dose of inflation, to name a few.
But this is a time to look ahead and so I have been thinking about my hopes and my predictions for 2023. First though, one more look at last year, right at the end of it, a tragedy that cannot be ignored.
That is the violent death of yet another police officer, this time, 28 -year -old Grzegorz Pierzchala, an OPP officer from Barrie Ontario, who learned he had successfully completed his probation period in the force just hours before he was ambushed and killed in a senseless shooting.
Of course, there is a gun control issue here that no doubt will embolden the Trudeau government’s efforts to remove handguns and assault weapons from the streets. I applaud that effort as long as it does not throw the baby out with the bathwater in relation to legitimate sport hunters and those that use handguns at a licensed gun club.
But there is another issue here and that brings us to 2023. This year, we need to get tougher on crime and restore an emphasis on the rule of law which seems to have been weakened in recent times.
The murder of OPP Constable Pierzchala is a classic example of why the bail system in Canada is badly flawed and puts people back on the street who should not be there.
One of the shooters was out on bail after being charged with assaulting three people, including a Peace Officer, along with related weapons charges including possessing a handgun with the serial number removed. Further, he skipped bail and did not show up for a court hearing in August, at which time a warrant was issued for his arrest.
And yet, four months later, he is still at large and committing murder. Surely, even the most progressive among us must agree that there can be no excuse for that. Clearly, in 2023 the bail system in this country needs radical reform and strengthening.
Another hope I have for 2023 is that the provincial and federal governments can get their heads together in relation to funding health care. Prime Minister Trudeau’s assertion that he needs a plan from the provinces before he agrees to further federal funding for health care, is nothing more than a delay tactic. He can put forward his own plan right now and then negotiate with the provinces. There is no greater need in this country right now than dealing with a national crisis in the delivery of health care services. Politicians need to stop dithering and get on with solving that problem now.
And while we are talking about health care, Ontario Premier Doug Ford needs to move quickly to lift the one percent cap on annual increases for nurses and other frontline workers. I understand the reason for his government appealing the recent court decision on Bill 124 as it sets a precedence for the ability of a government to control its own spending. But Premier Ford does not have to wait for that. The one per cent cap was a mistake in the first place. These front-line workers deserve much better than that and they deserve it now.
I also would hope to see during 2023 a softening of the political rhetoric we have been accustomed to in recent years. I was impressed by recent remarks by former Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole when he said, “In the new year, one of the things I hope to see less of is the profanity laden Trudeau flags. These flags and the hyper aggressive rhetoric that often accompanies them are slowly normalizing rage and damaging our democracy… As I told my kids during that national campaign, Mr. Trudeau was my political opponent, not my enemy.”
We need more of that. We need less of ‘My way or the highway’ politics that can only lead to anger, nastiness, frustration, and divisiveness, while at the same time, accomplishing absolutely nothing.
As for predictions, I believe that most Canadians are well past caring about whether or not the federal government was right in declaring a National Emergency over the trucker’s convoy. The decision of the Commissioner, which is due early this year, may or may not approve of the action taken. But either way, I don’t think it will move the needle on the political spectrum. Most people have moved on.
I also believe there will not be a federal election this year unless polling numbers for the Liberals increase considerably. Currently, they are on a downward cycle. Under those circumstances, the Liberals will not want an election and the NDP, in spite of their rhetoric, will never force one.
I do believe, however, that there could be two Liberal leadership races before the year is out. The movers and shakers in the federal Liberal Party will realize that their best chance in the next election is with a new leader and a fresh face. The Prime Minister himself will take his walk in the snow, and then it will be a whole new ball game.
In Ontario, the Liberal Party could have its own leadership race. If it does, my prediction is that Muskoka District Chair Jeff Lehman will be a candidate.
There is much that needs to be accomplished in 2023. The tragic war in Ukraine needs to end. Inflation must be controlled. Health care in Canada needs to be fixed and effective methods related to climate change must be addressed.
As we face all of these challenges as well as the opportunities that will arise, my hope is that we can do so in an atmosphere of civility and respect without the damaging rhetoric that makes progress impossible.
Ruby Truax, a Huntsville resident and a frequent blogger, recently wrote this. “As we head into a new year, let’s be a little more gentle with each other, have a little more empathy. Then maybe by this time next year we will like each other a little better.”
I say Amen to that. Happy New Year!
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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