Using Don Martin to predict what won’t happen in 2019

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It’s once again time for my favorite holiday tradition, now in its third year running: holding CTV’s Don Martin accountable for all the uproariously terrible political predictions he made at the end of the previous year.

In December of 2017, Don offered the following predictions for the year that just passed (annotations are my own):

– “it’s pretty clear NAFTA will be axed in late spring” and in response, “the Trudeau government quickly inks a Trans Pacific Partnership deal and launches free trade talks with China.”  (The TPP was signed — but so was a revised NAFTA deal, which President Trump never “axed.”  Free trade talks with China never even started, and we end 2018 with Sino-Canadian relations at their lowest point in a generation.)

– “Bill Morneau is found in violation of two Conflict of Interest Act provisions and privately offers to resign as finance minister,” but doesn’t on PM Trudeau’s urging.  (Nothing remotely resembling this happened.  In June, Minister Moreau was quietly cleared of any ethical wrongdoing, and had a quite inconspicuous 2018 overall).

– “Jagmeet Singh finally runs for a Commons seat in the GTA – and wins by a narrow margin.” (This did not happen).

– “Pot legalization comes into force in mid-July.  Despite a shortage of sales outlets and little sign illegal trafficking is negatively impacted because of a discounted price on the streets, legalization goes off with relatively little reefer retail madness.”  (Other than the fact that legalization actually came into force on October 17, this is a relatively accurate account of what went down.  I’ll give Don this one.)

– “With legal obstacles cleared, work begins on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion despite First Nation blockades to construction crews and fierce protests from the BC government.”  (In reality, new legal obstacles emerged in August, when the Federal Court of Appeal ruled the Trans Mountain project could not continue on the grounds the feds had engaged in insufficient consultations with aboriginal communities.  No protests necessary.)

– “Former Harper backbencher Patrick Brown wins the most seats in Ontario’s spring election, but falls short of a majority mandate for his Progressive Conservatives.  The Liberals and NDP come to a two-year agreement that keeps Kathleen Wynne in power as premier.” (Nothing remotely resembling this happened).

– “Despite a roaring economy, the fledgling Coalition for Quebec’s Future steamrolls to victory in the October election.  Defeated premier Phillippe Couillard announces his resignation on election night.”  (Premier Couillard was indeed solidly defeated in Quebec’s October election, and resigned a couple days later.  Though no one calls it this anymore, the “Coalition for Quebec’s Future” was likewise elected in Couillard’s place, so give Don another point.)

– “Justin Trudeau prorogues Parliament in September to reset his agenda through a throne speech which sets course for the 2019 election campaign.”  (Despite appointing a new governor general in the summer, PM Trudeau did not seem interested in assigning Ms. Payette her first throne speech and rather explicitly did not prorogue parliament in the fall.  Far from needing a “reset,” Trudeau’s government was still busily working its agenda through parliament right up until the Christmas break.)

In summary, out of eight predictions, Don Martin got two right — that the CAQ party would win in Quebec, and that the legalization of marijuana would be something of a non-event.  That’s a 25% success rate, for those keeping track.

keep trying to come up with a grand theory of how to use Martin’s penchant for wrongness as my own personal portent for Canada’s future.  Basically, the best approach is to assume things Don thinks will happen, won’t, with his most interesting and wild scenarios the least likely to occur and his most drab and boring ones the most likely to.  Near as I can tell, Don Martin has never accurately foretold an interesting development in Canadian politics, but has once in a while proved adept at calling things most reasonable people can see coming a mile away.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase.  What’s unlikely to happen in Canadian politics in 2019?

Well, for one Jagmeet Singh will likely neither lose his attempt to win a seat in a BC by-election, nor lose his crown as NDP leader to MP Nathan Cullen — two things Martin predicts in his latest column.

Similarly, the government will probably not be embarrassed much over the trial of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, which will presumably unfold to the Crown’s satisfaction, contrary to what Don sees coming.

The future of the Trans Mountain pipeline will, however, likely remain in a state of uncertainty.  Don predicts this, but really, who doesn’t?  Ditto for Jason Kenney’s widely-expected victory in Alberta or a rollout of higher deficit spending from the Trudeau government.  Martin isn’t exactly going out on a limb with these ones.

Don’s prediction that the Liberals will promise a “limited national pharmacare program” as part of their 2019 election platform seens plausible, but also sounds a bit too explicit for a Liberal campaign plank.  An electoral reform-style “promise to investigate” seems more likely.

His prediction that Ottawa will similarly “go ahead” with the controversial sale of armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia likewise seems like the sort of thing that might wind up never being resolved either way in 2019, and just muddle along in ambiguity.  Or perhaps Saudi Arabia will just find another vendor, robbing Trudeau of any agency.

Lastly, Don’s prediction for how the 2019 election will play out will almost certainly be wrong in the specifics, though the overall conclusion (second Liberal majority) feels safe enough to be right.

Basically, Martin foresees Liberal losses in Atlantic Canada and Alberta, compensated by gains in Quebec and Ontario.  He sees a terrible showing for the NDP (“barely clings to official party status”) heroic gains for Elizabeth May’s Greens, and a humiliating failure-to-launch on the part of Maxime Bernier’s populists.

I would therefore recommend betting on something weird happening in Quebec, a surprisingly strong NDP, and Bernier’s party eclipsing the Greens as the fringe option of choice.  While I personally feel Trudeau is still the odds-on favourite, my deep-seeded Don Martin contrariness opens my mind to the possibility that Andrew Scheer could somehow wind up prime minister due to a number of currently unforeseeable happenings scrambling Canada’s traditional political geography in his favour.

Having observed Martin’s predictions closely over the years, what was striking about his 2019 calls was just how comparatively timid they were.  There were far less anticipations of the sensational, much more caution and hedging.

In short, get ready for a wild year.

Photo Credit: CTV News

More from J.J. McCullough     @JJ_McCullough

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