Yogi Berra, the legendary ball player, coach and quipster, said once, “Never make predictions, especially about the future.”
Allow me to ignore his advice and offer the following predictions for the year ahead in 2019 politics:
Justin Trudeau will be reelected with a slightly reduced majority government, losing several seats out West but mostly treading water in Ontario and gaining marginally in Quebec. He’ll face a brief scare when Jagmeet Singh defies expectations and goes the only direction his short-lived leadership has left (no pun intended): upwards in the polls.
In the end, however, Trudeau will recapture the crisp messaging around an ascendant middle class and stunning visuals that propelled him to an underdog victory in 2015. He’ll rediscover that mix of an aspirational, hopeful form of centre-left populism, which first let Canadians feel he was on their side.
Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, will generally hold his own, but his “aw shucks” demeanour will continue to give way to increasingly rough rhetoric. But he’ll wear this posture inauthentically; he is not naturally anything more than he seems, which is to say a mild-mannered, middle-of-the-pack career politician with a young family, a minivan, a mortgage and a slightly mischievous half grin. Yet, he’ll allow the darker elements of his party — and fear of Maxime Bernier catching lightning in the bottle and (to mix the metaphor) eating his lunch — to drag him to the right in ways he will be too inexperienced and too spineless to avoid.
Scheer’s approach will be exacerbated by his inability to avoid being pulled into Premier Doug Ford’s orbit. Ford’s outsized personality and Marvel’s Kingpin-style approach to politics will constantly leave Scheer in a subservient role, like a kid brother or the big guy’s sidekick.
For his part, Ford will hunker down over the holiday and try to get a game plan in place to govern the province without lurching from crisis to crisis. He’ll come out of the holiday more organised, but he’ll mostly trade chaos for managed chaos. Look for Ford to merge and break up regional municipal governments and to abolish the position of school trustee as part of his cost-saving measures. Ford will also face increasing pressures to invest in health care, and he’ll make a big show of supporting nurses and improving facilities at under-resourced hospitals across the province.
The Ontario NDP will begin to descend into a civil war over Andrea Horwath, with ambitious MPPs beginning to openly speculate whether she should be allowed to run for her fourth straight election defeat in 2022. Their next party conference will be the milestone moment when Horwath either decides to move on, or to bring the simmering revolt out into the open by starring down her critics. For our part, the Ontario Liberal Party will meet for our party conference in June, which will mark the official start of the race to become the new permanent leader. Former transportation minister Steven Del Duca will confirm one of the worst-kept secrets in Ontario politics by entering the race as the frontrunner, with most of the remaining Liberal caucus members duking it out to see who will emerge from the pack as his principle opponent.
Jason Kenney, meanwhile, will have to walk through coals on the way to the Alberta Premier’s office; he’ll defeat Premier Rachel Notley, but she’ll give Kenney heart palpitations with a vigorous, vanguard action to ensure her NDP wins a surprisingly strong Official Opposition role as the defenders of a progressive Alberta.
On the global stage, Donald Trump will face increasing legal jeopardy as Donald Jr is charged with multiple indictments and the Mueller probe begins to show tangible proof of the Trump campaign’s complicity (and/or useful idiocy) with Russian attacks on American democracy. The embattled president will turn on his vice-president, Mike Pence, accusing him of fermenting a coup, and the Democrats will be divided between House investigations and presidential campaigning.
In Britain, Theresa May will finally succumb to pressure and delay the Article 20 Brexit moment of truth by calling a referendum between remaining in the EU or accepting May’s precarious deal, with the twist that the “remain” option must win a two-thirds majority to overturn the 2015 referendum result to leave.
All of this is to say — you should buy a subscription to Loonie Politics so we can continue to offer commentary like this, especially if I turn out to be right about any of these predictions.
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