Ho ho holy hell you guys, 2012 is almost finished. If the Mayans are right, that means it’s less than a month until the world is plunged into cataclysmic darkness or the sun explodes or whatever is supposed to happen when their calendar runs down. I’m personally a little skeptical anything will come of this, but if you’ve been following politics in this country over the last 12 months you might think blowing it all up is not such a bad idea.
The big story coming out of Ottawa in 2012 has been ROBOGATE, which is unfortunately way less exciting than a robot apocalypse, and roughly as bad if you care at all about fair elections. Last February the Ottawa Citizen broke the story that during the 2011 federal election campaign, a mysterious figure named “Pierre Poutine” (living on “Separatist Street” in Quebec, naturally) sent out a series of automated calls impersonating Elections Canada or local Liberal candidates trying to misdirect voters away from polling stations.
At least 7600 fraudulent calls were made in Guelph alone, and Elections Canada has reported complaints of similar calls in up to 100 other ridings. The big kicker is that all the calls were sent to people who had been identified by the Conservative Party of Canada as non-Conservative voters, meaning there’s a pretty good chance that ‘Pierre Poutine’ was a party staffer who had access to the CPC’s voter-ID registry and was using that information to suppress non-CPC votes in especially tight races. So far neither Elections Canada nor the RCMP have been able to track down the offender, and the Harper Government’s official response to the scandal has been to deny all involvement and let MP Dean Del Mastro bloviate endlessly that Elections Canada is a left-wing conspiracy. At least they didn’t arbitrarily prorogue parliament this year when questioned about it! Yeah, it’s important to keep the bar high.
Speaking of blowhards afraid of left-wing conspiracies, bumbling Toronto mayor Rob Ford was turfed out of office at the end of November for failing to read his own job description.
Federal and provincial political parties across the country have also had their share of leadership musical chairs over the past year. Thomas Mulcair ascended to the throne of St. Layton last Spring and graciously kept his beard, giving the federal scene much needed 19th-century flare. When Justin Trudeau is inevitably crowned Liberal leader, I hope he grows another 17th-century Van Dyke and rolls the men’s facial fashion clock back even further. The top Liberal job is also open in Quebec, where they recently lost to the PQ (where it turns out people take the rule of law really seriously!), as well as in Ontario, where the premier just decided to bounce and shut down the government. No word yet though about the Alberta Liberals, who are decidedly background noise in that province’s conservative civil war. Did Albertans actually show a more progressive side in re-electing a party that’s been in power since 1971, or was it a more conservative move than voting for the Wildrose Party? Another holiday brainteaser is how we got to the point of ‘Communist’ China buying up the tar sands. How is this sentence even logically possible?
Logic, of course, is a foreign entity to anyone familiar with the drama of the Newfoundland state this year. When the House of Assembly finally re-opened in March, the Dunderdale Tories wasted no time in reminding us just how dysfunctional it actually was (both institutionally and physically—the renovations on Confederation building have gone over budget). MHAs on all sides of the House brought being insufferable jerks to new heights and “local politicians saying dumb stuff on Twitter” became a legitimate category of news (I’m not complaining, it keeps beer in my fridge). If you’ve ever wanted to see folk singers scream incoherently at journalists or enjoy the rap stylings of Sandy Collins, #nlpoli might be the hashtag for you.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are no doubt feeling like the words ‘Muskrat Falls’ should constitute a cuss. When the Public Utilities Board, charged with reviewing the project, announced earlier this year that they didn’t have enough information to fully assess and endorse it, the government dismissed them and instead declared this lack of arms-length oversight would be made up for by a special debate on the project in the Assembly’s fall sitting. Hooray, right? In the interim, the government triggered a week-long filibuster when it introduced some of the worst Access to Information legislation in the country and Lorraine Michael accused the Justice Minister of secret racism and the whole thing was just a gongshow. Word is it made Tory stalwart Tom Osborne go Independent too, though a less charitable reading says he’s huffy about being turned down a cabinet position. Meanwhile, the provincial Liberals continued a slow-motion implosion all year that culminated in self-styled saviour Dean Macdonald washing his hands of the whole party less than a couple weeks after concluding the cross-province Renewal Tour he championed. Can you feel the excitement? Oh, and just a heads up: when the leadership happens, I’m endorsing Danny Dumaresque.
It gets better. When the House reopened in the fall, the promised special debate on Muskrat Falls was almost immediately shelved when the Tories categorically refused opposition demands to bring expert witnesses into the legislature like you would see done in any other jurisdiction in Canada. This has been roundly denounced by at least two local Political Science professors, but it’s not like expert opinion carries any weight in this province if it’s not bankrolled by Nalcor. The project’s sanction will also take place via private member’s bill, letting Dunderdale avoid another filibuster and approve a $7.5 billion megaproject in less time than it takes Keith Russell to get kicked out of a children’s hockey game. A little rushed, sure, but shag it—they’ve already spent a couple million building the dam thing before its formal approval, so they may as well just give’r now. Democracy, as usual, is an impediment to progress. Develop or perish!
And that’s a snapshot of 2012. I’m not even going to touch the rest of the world, because, jeez, between Syria and Gaza I’m drove to drink and between the prospect of the Eurozone eating itself and the Americans rolling over a ‘fiscal cliff’ on New Year’s Day, 2013, I’m starting to think the best place for my money is buried out back under the shed. But, maybe I’m being a bit too gloomy. No reason to think this won’t be our year. The cod might finally come back, or perhaps even more miraculously, the NHL.
Like they say, 13 is a lucky number.
So cheers b’ys. To another great year of nonsense.