2021—The Year Ahead

From the Editor / L. Ian MacDonald

Welcome to our special issue, 2021—The Year Ahead. For openers, and to state the obvious, it’s impossible to look at the year just beginning without looking at the one we’ve recently completed: 2020—The Year of the Pandemic. 

The year that changed everything. The year of the virus that swept ashore worldwide and killed over a million and a half people before Christmas.

The year that changed the way we live and the way we work. The year of the mask and social distancing, The year we discovered the difference between working from home and having to work from home. The year of the Zoom call. The year of the virtual school class. The year of postponed weddings, cancelled funerals and foregone grad dances. The year of exhausted health care workers and seniors  abandoned in long-term care residences. The year, as it ended, with vaccines on the horizon.

And the year of government, present in our lives with emergency relief programs to help workers without work, businesses suddenly out of business, and families with no means of keeping a roof over their heads.  The year fiscal frameworks became redundant, with record deficits and debts as a percentage of output.

And the year of the defeat of Donald Trump and his replacement by a normal person, Joe Biden.

Whatever the new normal may be, the year ahead may result in a different normal. And we’ve brought together a group of outstanding writers to help us think about it.

To begin, Kevin Lynch and Paul Deegan enumerate policy and social challenges confronting Canadians in 2021. As they write: “These will test our capacity for creative, collaborative longer-term thinking.”

Foreign affairs writer Jeremy Kinsman was at the table in an era when Canada’s voice as a middle power mattered in the world. He pointedly asks: “Do we still have the stuff, the will and ability to be a key player again?”

Pandemic or post-pandemic, climate change remains an even larger threat to the world’s health, economy and environment. Dan Woynillowicz and Eric St. Pierre look at environmental issues between Canada and the US as well as the global conversation.

Back home, noted fiscal authority Kevin Page looks at the federal spending envelope going into Budget 2021. And McGill’s Dr. Tim Evans, Executive Director of the federal health task force, weighs the challenges of getting vaccines into the arms of Canadians.

With 2021 considered a likely election year in Canada, we offer a package on the positioning and prospects of four parties, not from the perspective of pundits but from the vantage point of some of the most experienced operatives. John Delacourt looks back at the pandemic and the events of 2020 as a formative experience for the Liberals, who “can take stock and be hopeful.”  For the Conservatives, longtime strategists Geoff Norquay and Yaroslav Baran write of Erin O’Toole’s need to lead a united party by sidelining some of the “SoCon” voices of intolerance, and making a home for moderate Progressive Conservatives.

On the NDP, onetime national director Robin Sears notes that for a freshman leader, Jagmeet Singh been an effective presence in a minority House. How he plays the balance of power card is a big question going into the budget.  For the Greens, former leader Elizabeth May writes that the party made the right call in choosing Annamie Paul as her successor.  

Looking at America 2021, former State Department officer Sarah Goldfeder writes that Team Biden will begin from a well-formed institutional outlook on the US global leadership role, and its relationship with Canada. Our own Associate Editor Lisa Van Dusen, herself an experienced Washington hand, looks at the challenges facing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as they step into “the metaphorically ransacked Oval Office.” And John Weekes, Canada’s chief negotiator on the first NAFTA, points out that much of the Canada-US bilateral comes down to trade, trade, trade.

In Canada and the World, Stéphanie Chouinard writes of the Trudeau government’s promise in its throne speech to update the 1969 Official Languages Act, noting it’s not clear what that means for minority French and English-speaking communities.

Lori Turnbull writes of the game of parliamentary chicken going on between the Liberals and the opposition over the government falling on a non-confidence vote and contends it endangers the constitutional convention that the government either has the confidence of the House, or not. 

And Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong looks back at his parents, post-war immigrants to Canada from Hong Kong and the Netherlands, as an example of Canada as a beacon of hope and freedom.

And columnist Don Newman looks ahead to a Canadian election and predicts who’s going to win and why.

Finally, in Book Reviews, Anthony Wilson-Smith reviews Margaret MacMillan’s War: How Conflict Shaped Us. And Derek Burney looks at Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s The Man Who Ran Washington a bio of James A. Baker.