2018 predictions for Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and the world
I'm not an astrologer, stock-market analyst, or professional weather forecaster.
Despite this, I still decided to have fun at the start of last year with a series of predictions.
Here are some of my accurate calls for 2017:
* John Horgan will become premier.
* Adrian Dix, David Eby, and George Heyman will become cabinet ministers.
* There will be no fall in real-estate prices in the Lower Mainland, notwithstanding the predictions of some economists and university professors.
* Justin Trudeau will have a better-than-expected relationship with incoming U.S. president Donald Trump.
* Jagmeet Singh will emerge as a serious contender for the federal NDP leadership.
These ones missed the mark:
* The B.C. NDP government will announce a moratorium on construction of the Site C dam. That never happened.
* Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte will be assassinated. He wasn't.
* François Fillon will be elected president of France. The centre-right candidate failed to make it past the first round after allegations emerged in January that he used public funds to pay his wife and two children. Emmanuel Macron won the final round in a landslide.
With the new year dawning in a few days, here are my predictions for 2018.
1. Gregor Robertson will be reelected as mayor of Vancouver
As 2017 came to a close, Robertson looks like a dead duck to many. His council candidate was thumped in a by-election and he lost his position as chair of the TransLink Mayors' Council. But several factors could easily come together to ensure his continued presence at Vancouver City Hall after the October 20 election in 2018.
For instance, the mayor's Vision Vancouver party could run a shorter slate for council, perhaps only five or six candidates, leaving room for the Greens to run four or five candidates.
Green councillor Adriane Carr could easily go along with this rather than running for mayor against Robertson. She knows that if she goes for the top job, she'll split the environmental vote, enabling an NPA candidate to win the mayor's chair.
Carr likes her job and she's a shoo-in to be reelected to council. Besides that, Carr often votes with the Vision majority already.
Plus, the mayor's recent efforts to bring on more temporary modular housing for the homeless, his ongoing efforts to promote reconciliation with First Nations, and his consistent opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline will make him the least-worst alternative in the eyes of progressive voters.
Everyone seems to hate Robertson between elections but they still cast ballots for him on voting day. He's also done a far better job of reaching out to nonwhite communities and new Canadians than the NPA. Plus, the LGBT community loves him.
The NPA's best chance of winning the mayor's chair probably evaporated when Coun. George Affleck announced earlier this year that he won't be running in the 2018 election.
Instead, the B.C. Liberals in the backrooms will want to run one of their losing party leadership candidates (Michael Lee?) or someone who's never been elected to any public office (Kirk LaPointe?) or interim B.C. Liberal Leader Rich Coleman's poodle (Hector Bremner). Their collective inexperience at the civic level would result in Robertson cruising to victory.
That's especially so now that the province has introduced campaign-finance reform, making it more difficult to market anyone taking on the mayor.
The corporate media will give the NPA as much help as it possibly can, but that won't be enough to carry its standard-bearer across the finish line.
2. The NPA will not win control over park board, school board, or council
Part of the reason will be internal party divisions between federal Liberals and federal Conservatives. But it's also because most Vancouverites despise the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and many of them don't trust the NPA to take this issue seriously.
Some federal Conservatives will be backing former Vancouver South MP Wai Young's attempt to become the NPA mayoral candidate. And they'll resent it when she's crushed in favour of someone more appealing to four of the most powerful B.C. Liberals in Vancouver: MLA Andrew Wilkinson, business tycoon Peter Armstrong, political backroom boy Mark Marissen, and developer Peter Wall.
Following the NPA's fourth straight civic-election loss in 2018, party insiders will launch a review of what went wrong.
My bet? They'll conclude that there needs to be a new name before the 2022 election.
But what they really need is an ideological makeover by making the party more friendly to middle-of-the-road voters who care about climate change. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, they were made more comfortable by the presence of environmentally inclined candidates like Peter Ladner and Gordon Price. The party was also helped by socially progressive candidates like Nancy Chiavario and Alan Herbert.
In recent years, the NPA has demonstrated a tendency to nominate the same types of people who supported Christy Clark's war on the poor. The municipal party has to get out of the back pocket of the B.C. Liberals and declare that it's nobody's farm team.
3. Jean Swanson will be elected to city council
There's a growing appetite among millennial voters for ecosocialist candidates, which was demonstrated south of the border by Bernie Sanders almost winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
This puts Swanson in a good position to be elected in October. Socialism may be a dirty word for many older voters, but the alternative—runaway, greenhouse-gas-spewing capitalism that threatens the future of humanity on Earth—doesn't look very appealing to those who are having trouble meeting the rent and worry about the state of the planet.
Swanson's focus on taking from the rich to house the poor clearly resonated with a significant number of voters in the 2017 by-election. She's giving every indication that she's going to run again in 2018 and when she's elected, expect to see a motion on the council floor debating whether to ask the province for the right to charge progressive property taxes.
4. Overdose deaths will finally decline in Vancouver
The introduction of low-cost hydromorphone and the addition of safe-consumption sites wil finally help turn the corner on the worst public-health scourge to hit Vancouver since the HIV/AIDS crisis.
The minister for mental health and addictions, Judy Darcy, will receive some of the credit for this achievement, but some will also note that the foundation was laid by former health minister Terry Lake's relentless lobbying of federal officials to take this crisis seriously and expanding the distribution of the anti-overdose medication naloxone.
The reality, however, is the greatest work was done by community activists and emergency responders, who saved countless lives in the midst of the overdose calamity.
1. Andrew Wilkinson will win the B.C. Liberal leadership race
The MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena is not the most dynamic speaker. And his name recognition with the public is still quite low. But the former B.C. Liberal party president has run the most effective campaign to replace Christy Clark. It really got underway with his visits to numerous constituencies to help local candidates during the 2017 election campaign while Clark was still premier.
Wilkinson has secured the most caucus endorsements. He's played up his rural credentials well, even though he's lived in Vancouver for more than two decades. And he's going to be the second or third choice of enough B.C. Liberal members in the boonies to come out on top when all the ballots are counted.
2. Voters will approve proportional representation
There will be a divide between urban voters, who will mostly favour proportional representation, and rural voters in the B.C. Interior, who will want to preserve the first-past-the-post system. But at the end of the day, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver will get his wish when the public votes in October to change B.C.'s voting system.
Some will see it as the death of the B.C. Liberals, suggesting that the right-wing coalition will fragment. But the NDP will also face a challenge as those disenchanted with the Site C dam decision will form a new party focused on respect for Indigenous rights, opposition to the Peace River megaproject, and greater appreciation for the province's "natural" capital, including its rivers and farmland.
3. Housing prices will remain high
The NDP government will make a big deal of a raft of policies early in the new year to address the shortage of affordable housing.
Some will be demand-side measures, such as bans on marketing of B.C. condos abroad and a new speculation tax. Others will aim to increase supply, such as by changing provincial legislation so that loans for student housing aren't recorded as taxpayer-supported debt.
But these steps, along with higher interest rates, won't address the central problem: there aren't enough homes on the market to meet the demand.
The biggest obstacle will be that the province will remain reluctant to interfere in municipalities' control over zoning.
Having one housing authority responsible with zoning powers for the entire region would be one way to provide much-needed supply. And giving the province or municipal governments the right of first refusal to buy multi-unit buildings put up for sale might do wonders for providing more housing for the middle class.
But both of these measures require the type of political courage we're never going to see from a minority government.
So as a result, housing prices will remain stubbornly high across the Lower Mainland. And groups like Housing Action for Local Taxpayers, which put such high hopes in the NDP, will become increasingly disenchanted with the Horgan administration.
4. Costly climate change reminders
The wildfires and floods in 2017 were a taste of what climate change is bringing to B.C. Get ready for more of the same in 2018.
Even if the fires don't last as long this year, we're still going to experience smoky days in the summer in Vancouver as well as in other cities in the B.C. Interior. That will give rise to discussions about the economic impact of climate change, particularly on the tourism sector.
We can also expect to see Ventolin bronchodilators to start flying out of pharmacies in communities like Quesnel, Prince George, and, yes, Vancouver.
This also has the potential to be the year that a much larger percentage of the population finally comes to the realization that they can die from climate change.
Last year's hurricanes in the southern United States and the Caribbean began that process; if we see more of the same this year, then it will really sink in.
1. Rising oil prices
Last year, I predicted that the Trump administration would want oil prices to rise in 2017. It was a bumpy ride, starting at US$52.62 per barrel before reaching US$59.93 per barrel by the end of November. Today West Texas Intermediate crude is trading at US$60.42. which is up 15 percent on the year. Brent Crude is at US$66.87 per barrel.
The oil prices are increasing as the economy continues growing. The world could be on track to consume 100 million barrels of oil per day at some point this year, which will continue putting upward pressure on prices, notwithstanding all the fracking that's taking place.
That will have a positive impact on the loonie, which is worth US$0.80 today. Higher oil prices will help the economy in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but is not good news for Ontario.
2. Liberals will lose power in Ontario
The first serious political damage to Justin Trudeau will come when his close ally, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, is defeated in June.
The new premier, Progressive Conservative Patrick Brown, will convey a message that the right is making a comeback in Canada. That will put a smile on federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's face.
But in fact, the big surprise will be the performance of the NDP in urban and suburban centres.
The success of the New Democrats under leader Andrea Howarth will put wind in the sails of federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who will be given some of the credit for the high NDP seat count.
It's conceivable that the NDP could hold the balance of power with a minority Progressive Conservative government. This will have the chattering classes talking about the federal New Democrats possibly holding the balance of power after the 2019 election.
3. Liberals will retain power in Quebec
Philippe Couillard will beat back a tough challenge from the Parti Québécois under its capable leader, Jean-François Lisée.
The left-wing Québec Solidaire will also make big gains, thanks to its young and charismatic Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, which will infuriate the PQ.
The democratic socialist, environmentally inclined, and sovereignist Québec Solidaire's success will be taken as a sign that millennial voters want more radical change than what's on offer from establishment parties.
4. NAFTA dies
U.S. president Donald Trump knows that if he negotiates a revamped NAFTA, he'll face the wrath of voters in the Rust Belt who helped make him president. And he's going to want to ensure his party does well in the midterm elections. So he'll let the treaty die.
The newspaper pundits and the business community will be up in arms over this, but it won't trouble the public very much.
Some on the left will even welcome this because it will mark the end to the hated dispute-settlement mechanism, which allows corporations to sue national governments for compensation.
1. No war between America and North Korea
Both countries know the other one can inflict catastrophic damage so Donald Trump and Km Jong-un will continue chirping at one another like pro athletes sometimes do on the ice or on the basketball court.
2. Jay Inslee's star rises
Washington's governor, Jay Inslee, used to work in the Clinton administration and he's precisely the type of Democrat that its centrist wing will rally around to try to blunt the Bernie Sanders faction from taking over the party.
This is why you might want to keep an eye on Inslee as a future candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
He's already taken a lead role in fighting Trump's efforts to ban visitors from Muslim-majority countries. Inslee's state was one of the first to legalize marijuana. And it's home to several huge U.S. corporations, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks.
Inslee also has a pretty good environmental record. While he's getting old for a presidential run, he's still younger than Trump. Inslee is also smarter than Trump.
3. Political instability in China
Chinese president Xi Jinping consolidated power at this year's crucial party congress, but along the way, he's made many enemies among the Chinese elites.
Xi's corruption crackdown has claimed many victims, including a top Chinese general, Zhang Yang, who reportedly committed suicide in Beijing last month.
However, there are rumours that perhaps Zhang didn't commit suicide and in fact, he was plotting a coup against Xi.
Zhang and another top general, Fang Fenghui, were not appointed as People's Liberation Army delegates to the party congress.
If someone takes out Xi this year, it won't come as a complete surprise to some long-time China watchers.
4. Vladimir Putin will be reelected as Russian president
You don't need to read a list of predictions to know this will happen. But hey, I have to put one sure thing on the list so I'll have something to point to next year.