Well, here we are. A new year, new challenges, and new opportunities.
Most of us were happy to see the end of 2021. Some of us even muttered, “Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.” I know I did.
But now we face a new year. It is good to be hopeful and certainly there are things to be hopeful about.
There will be obstacles and serious challenges as well. and some interesting political races. That is often the case and that is why many pundits like to make predictions at the beginning of the new year. I am no different. Last year, I batted just slightly over 500. So, let’s see if I can do better for 2022.
First, in terms of the COVID pandemic, January is not going to be a pretty month. The surge of the Omicron variant is still in full flight and will be for several more weeks, affecting almost everyone in one form or another. All signs point to Omicron being a weaker variant, symptom-wise, and the good news appears to be that those who are fully vaccinated and test positive for Omicron are, generally, experiencing much less severe infections than those who remain unvaccinated.
In February, I believe we will see this surge begin to ease off. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer recently said, “Every pandemic runs its course…What we are looking at is the transition from this urgent crisis response to one where the virus is more predictable.”
Let’s hope that it runs its course soon, because most people are already at the end of their rope in terms of tolerating COVID-related restrictions and January is unlikely to do anything to ameliorate that.
Turning now to politics, first at the federal level, I believe that we will see real signs this year that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading toward the exit. By any measurement of recent prime ministers, with three elections under his belt Trudeau is approaching his best-before date.
The Liberal establishment at the national level are experts at protecting their brand with timely transitions when it becomes apparent that is necessary. One can be pretty sure that those movers and shakers are already planning the book deals and job opportunities for the current prime minister. My prediction is that late this year, or early next, there will be a Liberal leadership race, following which—barring a real surprise, such as a snap election—Chrystia Freeland will be the next prime minister of Canada.
As for Ontario, there will be an election in June. Although the actual writ period is only a little more than a month, the campaign is already underway and all signs point to a bitter one.
Yesterday alone—yes, on New Year’s Day—there were no fewer than a dozen attack ads from the Liberal and NDP camps against the Ford Government. We can expect this every day between now and June 2. Whether or not it will work is the interesting speculation.
There is no question that Doug Ford is a little rough around the edges. He is not your typical premier and he has a propensity, at times, to be bombastic. But he is a people person, much more accessible than some of his predecessors and certainly down to earth. Who was the last premier you saw driving around in a pickup truck?
In spite of the pandemic, which I believe he has handled as well as any other premier or indeed the prime minister, and in spite of the occasional peccadillo along the way, my prediction is that Doug Ford will win a second term as premier, albeit with a reduced majority.
In my view, NDP leader Andrea Horwath should never be elected premier of Ontario. In fact, I predict she will no longer even be leader of the Opposition after the June election. She has not been effective in that role. She is very good at whining and pointing fingers but comes up short when her position calls for realistic alternatives.
The leader of the Ontario Liberal Party is another matter. Steven Del Duca is not well known, but that will change in the next few months. Unlike the NDP, his party has put forward a more definitive plan of what they would do if they formed the next government. While I do not believe he will become the next premier, I do think Steven Del Duca will resurrect the Liberal Party from the ashes of the previous election. I predict he will become leader of the Opposition.
Finally, I have been asked by a number of folks what I believe to be the greatest opportunity facing us in 2022 and what I believe is the greatest risk.
I think we have a real opportunity to out-pace this horrific pandemic and put Canada back on track as a nation to be envied and respected. In order to do that, we need to tone down the rhetoric and find a way to work together at all levels of government. But the opportunity is there, the resources are there, and if the willpower is there we can get it done.
What I believe is the greatest risk we face in 2022 may surprise you. As important as it is, it is not climate change. Nor is it the political fiasco we see in the United States which is causing more unrest and instability than we have seen there in a century. Rather, it is the alignment of two countries in their apparent determination to increase their territories by invading their neighbours. In my view, this could lead to war.
Russia and China now have a common objective, one to invade the Ukraine, the other to occupy Taiwan. Both believe, for various reasons including a weakened United States as a world force, that this is an opportune time to advance their agendas of invasion. If push comes to shove, each will stand with the other.
Balance of power is critical in a peaceful world and democratic nations cannot stand by and let that be tinkered with. They could not when invasions precipitated World War Two and they cannot now.
Diplomatic efforts, which at this moment are taking place at the highest levels to resolve these matters, will in my view be more important than anything else in 2022. But there cannot be appeasement. As Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said very recently, “Appeasement guarantees the triumph of tyranny.”
And so, there are real challenges to face in 2022 as well as genuine opportunities. There remains much to be done and much that can be accomplished for the good of Canada and indeed for all of mankind.
Let’s hope we are up to it.
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 Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has 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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