I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. My track record with these has not been good and inevitably they get broken. At the end of each year, however, I do tend to reflect on both the past and the future, and I am doing so again.
I doubt that 2023 will go down in too many people’s books as the best ever, at least not in the public arena. While everyone will have their own thoughts about the ups and downs of this past year, here are a few of mine.
2023 has put us closer to the brink of a third-world conflict as alliances, and the balance of global power, shift. Most people don’t want to think about that, but they should.
The Russia/Ukraine war has been somewhat off the top of the news cycle recently but what happens there at the end of the day will have consequences well beyond those borders. If Vladimir Putin is successful in his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, (and just yesterday, he doubled down) not unlike Hitler, he won’t stop there.
Former American presidential candidate and still Senator Mitt Romney continues to hammer home his strong belief that any kind of victory for Putin in Ukraine will heighten his territorial ambitions which could well bring NATO into play and therefore result in a much bigger and more dangerous conflict, putting China, having its own territorial ambitions, at Russia’s side. Romney is not alone in these concerns.
Another fire burns brightly in the Middle East with the war between Israel and the Hamas-controlled government in Palestine. While a significant portion of public opinion is shifting away from Israel and toward Palestine, it should never be forgotten that the horrendous atrocities perpetrated on Israeli soil by Hamas are what started this war. While the cries for a ceasefire and a peace treaty with Hamas are understandable, especially from a humanitarian perspective, it is hard to see how this can come about as long as the other side hangs on to their mantra and core intent of slaughtering Jews and obliterating Israel.
I will always be a proud Canadian but I was embarrassed for this country when, Ghazi Hamad, reputed to be the head of Hamas, was able to thank Canada for voting (at the U.N.) to protect the interest of Hamas terrorists.
One well-connected Canadian political operator put it this way: “I never thought I would see a terrorist, who ordered the cold-blooded murders of thousands of citizens from one of our allies, take to Twitter to thank Canada for its political help.”
The war in the Middle East cannot be seen as an isolated confrontation. It too could have global implications and consolidate alliances such as that between Iran and Russia. It could lead to a change in the always delicate global balance of power.
In both wars, the one in Ukraine and the one between Israel and Hamas, this question must be asked: What does it mean for our future if we let the bad guys win? That is a question that cannot be answered after the fact. It needs to be dealt with very soon.
One consequence of the conflicts in 2023, in particular the Israel/Hamas war, as well as the permissiveness of the Populist movement that is most frightening and concerning to me, is the rise of global antisemitism. To our shame, it is alive and well here in Canada. We have seen it in our streets, our shopping centres, in some of our universities, in unions and school boards and in political cartoons.
Melissa Lastman, Deputy Leader of the federal Conservatives and of Jewish heritage and someone who, in my view, will play a leading role in Canadian politics, said this: “51% of hate crimes committed (in Canada) since October 7th targeted Jews who make up only 3.6% of the population. If you don’t think we have an antisemitism problem in Canada, I can’t help you.”
While I am on my high horse about what went wrong in 2023, there is another quite recent matter that I believe to be a big mistake. I am no fan of Donald Trump as our regular readers will know, but it was wrong for officials in Colorado and Maine to remove Trump from the Primary ballot in those states. There are several reasons for this.
Both in Canada and the United States, the rule of law is sacrosanct to our democracy. Most of us who follow politics have a pretty clear idea of the countless ways Donald Trump may have broken the law and he is facing numerous indictments related to his behaviour. But as of yet, he has not been convicted of any of them.
The 14th Amendment of the American Constitution prevents someone from running for president who promotes insurrection. But that must be proven and not surmised and that is the job of the courts and not individual states.
Why is that important? Because Donald Trump has based his entire campaign on his apparent belief that the 2020 election was rigged with political interference and fake ballots. Court after court has found that to be without foundation.
But what now can the action of two states, largely controlled by the opposite party, be called, other than political interference in the electoral process? Surely this decision is more to the benefit of Donald Trump than anyone else.
Quite likely, the Supreme Court will over-rule the decision by these two states to remove Donald Trump from Primary ballots. Meanwhile, the damage has been done. Trump is reaping millions more dollars in donations because of this, and more people will believe there are two standards here and Trump is the only one being punished for it.
So much for my rant about 2023. What about 2024?
I will be more succinct here. Certainly, we face many challenges in the next 12 months. But here are some of the things I hope for.
The first is, sadly, the most unlikely, but also the most important to achieve and that is to find solutions that don’t reward aggressors in both the Ukraine/Russia war and the Hamas/Israel war. The first order of business in 2024 must be to tone down global tensions and step back from the threat of global conflict. It will take huge diplomatic skills to accomplish this.
I hope that the United States gets its act together in 2024. It is fractured today in a manner that is losing them critical respect on the national stage as it relates to the balance of global power.
I hope that Donald Trump does not become President of the United States again. The last thing Canada needs is a next-door neighbour that espouses dictatorial power.
In Canada, we need our leaders to show some guts and shut down antisemitism and any other kind of racism. We have the laws to achieve this. We just need leaders with the courage to implement and enforce them. Why should that be too much to hope for?
Despite his protest to the opposite, I hope that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take his walk in the snow before the end of 2024. In fact, unless the current political landscape changes, I predict he will either on his own or with pressure from within so that with an election still almost a year away, Canadians will have time to assess a new Liberal leader.
In Muskoka, I hope that municipal councils will think twice about levying hefty property taxes. Huntsville Council started out with a 15% tax increase for 2024. They have since lowered that to 10%, likely hoping that people will be happy with the fact that the projected tax was cut by a third. But I think not, and I believe that council needs to think yet again. 10% is still way above the rate of inflation at a time when many people are trying hard just to keep their heads above water. Usually, I am happy to encourage other municipalities in Muskoka to follow Huntsville’s lead, but not this time!
So, is it a bleak year ahead? I would like to think not. Certainly, there are challenges but with every challenge there is opportunity. I seldom agree with former Premier David Peterson, but I did when he said this: “Don’t be afraid of the future… Regret is the most useless of human emotions. And there is something happy around the corner every day—just go find it.”
Maybe we should do just that. Happy New Year everyone!
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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