Predictions for 2019: Trudeau ends up with a Liberal minority government in Canada
In 2014, Cracked.com posted a story listing 26 hilariously inaccurate predictions about the future.
One of my favourites was number 15, which cited a 1955 forecast by the president of the Lewyt vacuum company.
"Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years," declared Alex Lewyt.
He was wrong.
Another doozy? In 1995, Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, predicted in that "the Internet will soon go supernova and in 1996 will catastrophically collapse."
That ranked eighth.
But coming in first was the multitude of predictions in 1996 and 1997 about the demise of tech giant Apple.
Microsoft's former chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold, said it was "already dead".
Wired declared that Apple was "out of the hardware game". And the Economist snorted that Apple had two options: "The first is to break itself up, selling the hardware side. The second is to sell the company outright."
One research analyst quoted in the New York Times simply said Apple was "cooked".
With the preceding paragraphs in mind, I've made some forecasts for 2019. It's something I enjoy doing on New Year's Day.
Sometimes, I'm prescient, like when I predicted that John Horgan would become B.C. premier in 2017 or that the NPA wouldn't control Vancouver council, park board, or school board after the 2018 election.
But I can also be spectacularly wrong. This was demonstrated when I guessed that Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte would be assassinated. (In case you're wondering, he's still alive.)
1. Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart will be frustrated by NPA and Greens uniting on proposals that he disagrees with.
The first Vancouver mayor in recent history without a party recently learned how tough it is to govern. Council passed a motion instructing the mayor to write a letter to the premier and the provincial finance minister asking them to repeal a surtax on homes valued at more than $3 million.
It was a letter that Stewart didn't want to write, but the NPA and Greens supported the motion, delivering eight votes in favour in the 11-member chamber.
Expect NPA politicians to bring forward more motions like this in 2019. A few will be designed to advance the interests of the B.C. Liberals and put the B.C. NDP government on the defensive.
Some of these motions will be supported by one or more of the Green councillors, leaving the mayor and his closest ally, OneCity's Christine Boyle, on the losing end.
The mayor promised in his campaign to introduce a ward system if B.C. voters rejected proportional representation. PR was defeated, but it's highly questionable whether Stewart can muster the six votes necessary to try to change the city's electoral system.
I'm betting he'll put electoral reform on the back burner in 2019 and possibly revisit it in the following year.
Stewart's inability at times to drive the agenda on council will lead him to want to play a bigger role regionally, where he can get things done by forming alliances with other mayors, including Surrey's Doug McCallum and Coquitlam's Richard Stewart.
Here's another thing of note in Vancouver: this is the final year of four-year collective agreements between the city and its inside workers, outside workers, and library employees.
There's potential for serious dissension on Vancouver council later this year or in 2020 if the NPA councillors find a Green ally (Michael Wiebe?) who's ready to pass motions directing staff to adopt a hard line in contract talks.
The worst possible outcome for Stewart would be if Jean Swanson decides to call it quits in 2019, setting the stage for a by-election that could elect another NPA member to council. If that were to happen, the NPA would have a majority.
2. The Liberals will retain all four of their Vancouver seats in the 2019 federal election.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould cruised to victory in Vancouver Granville in 2015 with an 11,181-vote margin over her nearest rival, the NDP's Mira Oreck. Conservative Erinn Broshko came third, with 26.87 percent of the votes.
This time, Wilson-Raybould will face a much tougher fight with the Conservatives, who may field Vancouver cop Terry Yung as their candidate. Yung, who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, has been president of the party's Vancouver South riding association. (More below on why he might switch to Granville.)
In Vancouver Granville, Yung would attract more votes than Broshko did, but Wilson-Raybould will keep her seat because of a cratering of support for the NDP. Many of its voters will hemorrhage over to the Liberals and the Greens.
That's despite deep concerns over the Liberals' physician-assisted dying legislation and the government's decision to spend $4.5 billion on Kinder Morgan's Canadian pipeline system and another $9.3 billion on an expansion.
The Conservatives may feel that their best bet to defeat the incumbent in Vancouver South, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, would be to nominate his former Liberal rival, businessman Barj Dhahan.
Dhahan was a shoo-in to become the Liberal nominee in 2015 had the party held a nomination meeting, but it was clear that Trudeau's preference was Sajjan. He was a former cop and commander of the B.C. Regiment, and his father was once a director of the World Sikh Organization, which has considerable influence over the federal Liberals.
So Dhahan, now a member of the Vancouver police board, "withdrew".
If Dhahan runs as a Conservative, he will likely be supported by the Khalsa Diwan Society board, which runs the Ross Street temple and which invited Indian prime minister Narendra Modi as a guest on his only trip to Canada. Dhahan can count on the backing of his friend, former Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, as well as strongly pro-India NRIs (nonresident Indians).
It's worth noting that Dhahan, his sister, and some of his political allies (though not Dosanjh) contributed to Wai Young's Conservative campaign in 2015 after Dhahan backed out of seeking the Liberal nomination.
But Sajjan's popularity and high public profile will likely be enough for him to retain his seat. Vancouver South has gone Liberal in every election but one since 1993.
Expect Vancouver Quadra to also remain Liberal even if the incumbent, Joyce Murray, retires.
There will be a great deal of frustration expressed in this riding and in Vancouver Granville over the government's desire to complete the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. But it will only cost the Liberals one riding to the NDP: Burnaby North–Seymour.
That's because the large number of high-income residents of Vancouver Quadra and Vancouver Granville will not be inclined to vote NDP. And female voters, in particular, will be put off by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's previous backing from anti-abortion activists.
Vancouver Centre will also remain Liberal as Hedy Fry cruises to her ninth straight victory dating back to 1993. She'll be helped by the downturn in NDP fortunes.
3. Don Davies will win again in Vancouver Kingsway
One of the biggest question marks concerns which NDP MPs will not seek reelection. So far, 10-year veteran parliamentarian Don Davies hasn't signalled his intentions whether his name will be on the ballot in Vancouver Kingsway.
Before Christmas, Davies called on the federal government to halt the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, saying it was politically motivated. This earned a rebuke from his leader, Jagmeet Singh.
Davies has keen political instincts—and his eagerness to take a stand on this matter will endear him to a fair number of his Mandarin-speaking constituents.
He's thrived in politics by demonstrating that he listens to the people in his riding. And that's reflected in his support for more dramatic actions to deal with the overdose crisis and his enduring popularity with the large number of Filipino Canadians in Vancouver Kingsway.
I'm betting that he's going to run again and he'll defeat the Liberal nominee Tamara Taggart. That's because he'll relish the challenge of taking on a high-profile opponent.
And in his quiet moments of reflection over this holiday period, Davies will realize that if he's not in Parliament raising questions about decriminalizing hard drugs, the number of fentanyl-related deaths will only continue increasing.
That's because Trudeau and his justice minister are too timid to come up with a bold response that will save lives and prevent more heartache for families.
And Davies knows that his hard work as the health critic will be recognized and applauded by traditional NDP voters even if they feel that Singh is too inexperienced to become prime minister.
But the key determining factor will be Davies' realization that Trudeau will likely be heading a minority government after the 2019 election, which would put the veteran NDP MP in a position to have serious influence in the future.
Also, expect Jenny Kwan to be reelected as the NDP candidate in Vancouver East, though her margin of victory will be much narrower this time. That will be a result of a much larger number of her constituents voting Green.
4. Jagmeet Singh will win a by-election in Burnaby South.
The embattled NDP leader has had a rough go of it in the 14 months since he succeeded Tom Mulcair. Several MPs have said they won't seek reelection; the party's lagging behind the Liberals and Conservatives in the polls; and he's had public disagreements with high-profile members of the caucus.
But in by-elections, turnout is traditionally low and that helps parties with the best get-out-the-vote campaigns. Burnaby South is a make-or-break event for the federal NDP—it needs a victory if it wants to have any hope of raising money for the next federal election campaign.
Meanwhile, the Liberals may have undermined their chances by nominating a former B.C. Liberal candidate, Karen Wong. She doesn't have a high public profile in a riding that's never been overly warm to the B.C. Liberals.
Perhaps Trudeau's charm could help her get across the finish line first, but I'm betting the NDP machine will be operating at full steam on behalf of Singh. The decision of the Greens to sit out this contest will also help Singh's vote total.
Liberals back in Ottawa might even want Singh to win because it would ensure he remains leader in the next federal election. That could help Trudeau boost the Liberal seat count in Quebec.
1. There will be no provincial election in 2019.
NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson will win the Nanaimo by-election. The primary reason will be because NDP voters in the constituency will prefer Premier John Horgan over B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
With the future of the government at stake—the NDP and Greens have 43 members in the 87-seat legislature—Nanaimo voters are not going to want to facilitate the possible return of the B.C. Liberals to power.
They've only been in the penalty box for less than two years after 16 years running the province.
The Liberals' failure to win this seat will be a deep disappointment for Wilkinson, but it won't be enough for him to question whether his party's climate policies are an obstacle to him becoming premier.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver has enthusiastically supported the provincial CleanBC plan to create a low-carbon economy. This has occurred even though the NDP government has not legislated any greenhouse-gas emission limits until 2030.
Now that proportional representation has been defeated in the recent referendum, Weaver will have no incentive to push for an election. He won't try to bring down the government over the LNG Canada project near Kitimat.
And the NDP's polling numbers (see below) will dissuade the risk-averse Horgan from taking his chances in a general election in 2019.
2. Andrew Weaver will declare that he will lead B.C. Greens into one more provincial election.
The results of the 2018 referendum on electoral reform have left the Greens feeling demoralized.
They pinned their hopes on proportional representation—making it a cornerstone of the confidence and supply agreement with the NDP caucus, which made Horgan premier.
The continuation of a first-past-the-post system elevates the prospect of the next provincial election becoming a two-party race between the B.C. Liberals and NDP across much of B.C.
Weaver realizes that his only real shot at having any influence is if another minority government is reelected. So he's not going to do anything to bring down the Horgan regime.
Weaver will be tempted to step aside as B.C. Green leader so he can concentrate on retaining his seat in Oak Bay–Gordon Head. But his ego will convince him that only he can lead the party into the next general election.
In the meantime, the NDP will go out of its way to try to woo two of the three Green MLAs, Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen, into crossing the floor, but they'll decide against doing this.
This is in spite of the Green MLAs' satisfaction with the NDP government's efforts to reduce fish farming in the Broughton Archipelago and improve the environmental-assessment process.
3. The NDP will continue beating the drum about corruption.
Ever since John Horgan became NDP leader in 2014, his party has gone out of its way to brand the B.C. Liberals as corrupt and financially incompetent.
The process began when David Eby was appointed as the opposition critic in three areas that have been prone to corruption in the past: gambling, housing, and liquor.
It intensified in the spring of 2016 after the NDP had accumulated significant research and gotten key media people onboard. The B.C. Liberals' refusal to endorse campaign-finance reform played into Horgan's hand.
Since the NDP formed government, there's been a multipronged campaign against corruption and highlighting of B.C. Liberal incompetence, supported by the premier's office and buttressed by various reports. They include the leaked Ernst & Young evaluation of ICBC and the commissioned report on money laundering in casinos by Peter German.
A key part of the premier's strategy was naming Eby as attorney general, rather than long-time NDP attorney general critic Leonard Krog.
In a twist of fate, that's what's set the stage for the upcoming Nanaimo by-election, which could determine the future of Horgan's premiership. That's because when Krog was kept out of cabinet, he quit the caucus to run for mayor of Nanaimo.
This year, the NDP government will keep corruption in the spotlight with another German report, this time into real estate. A second report will come in the form of recommendations from the province's expert panel on money laundering.
This will lead to more legislation. Eby and Finance Minister Carole James will no doubt describe this as cleaning up a sordid mess created by the B.C. Liberal government that turned a blind eye to white-collar crime.
Social media will repeatedly drive home the message that the previous government allowed this activity to thrive.
There could also be legislation dealing with the B.C. Securities Commission's capacity to impose and collect fines. A couple of high-profile civil forfeiture stories would also serve as reminders of the NDP government's vigilance in this area.
And groups like Transparency International Canada and Democracy Watch will give the NDP the thumbs up on its efforts to address the issue.
But there won't be a Charbonneau Commission–style public inquiry into corruption because information emerging from this couldn't be controlled by the premier's office, plus costs could spiral out of control.
By the end of 2019, the NDP government still won't have amended section 49 of the Business Corporations Act. This provision allows private corporations to keep their shareholders' lists out of the hands of the public and the media.
But hey, the lobbyist registration rules have been amended.
4. B.C. Liberal polling numbers will improve
The NDP and B.C. Liberals have been in a neck-and-neck race in the polls, but the longer the NDP remains in power, the more unpopular it will become. The public is in a grumpy mood and has been throwing out most provincial governments seeking reelection in recent years.
The Horgan government's emphasis on demand-side measures to address the high price of housing is a factor in slowing the market, but it hasn't yet had a serious impact on prices.
One person who pays a great deal of attention to this issue, former Statistics Canada employee Victor Wong, has predicted that Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver's composite home price index will correct five to 10 percent from the June 2018 peak and then rise beyond that by the end of 2019.
He added the caveat that this would depend on interest rate hikes and further demand-side measures by the government.
The problem for the NDP is that demand-side measures do little to help people looking for rental dwellings. Existing renters benefited from the Horgan government's decision to reduce the maximum allowable rent increase to 2.5 percent, but those seeking homes, including newcomers to the region, are finding it expensive to live here.
Renters are part of the NDP's base.
And falling housing prices hurt the B.C. Liberal base, which is mostly comprised of homeowners.
That creates a political powder keg, which will only help the B.C. Liberals. Wilkinson is capitalizing on this by making housing one of his primary issues.
The B.C. Liberals also know that eventually, many voters will blame the NDP for rising ICBC and B.C. Hydro rates. And Horgan faces a terrible dilemma on regional transportation—either he allows bridge tolls, permits road pricing, or will be held responsible for traffic congestion getting worse in Metro Vancouver.
None of these options is a vote-getter at the ballot box, particularly in the outer suburbs where B.C. elections are won and lost.
1. Minority Liberal government by end of 2019
Provincial governments have been defeated over the past couple of years in many areas of the country, including Ontario, Quebec, B.C., and Manitoba. The next to fall will be Rachel Notley's NDP government in Alberta.
Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, is more popular than his Conservative counterpart, Andrew Scheer, which will enable the Liberals to remain in power after the 2019 election.
But this time, it will be in a minority. And like his father Pierre, Justin Trudeau will have to rely on the NDP to keep him in power in his second term.
Trudeau's election strategy was rooted in sweeping Atlantic Canada, capturing most of the seats in Quebec, and winning enough ridings in Ontario to form a majority.
But the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois will do better than expected in Quebec, due to rising nativism in that province, setting back Liberal fortunes somewhat.
The Trudeau Liberals will retain most of their seats in urban and suburban ridings in English-speaking Canada. But the loss of a few—plus an inability to run the table in Quebec—will keep the party not much below the 170 seats necessary for a majority.
B.C. NDP MPs like Murray Rankin, Jenny Kwan, Don Davies, Peter Julian, and, yes, Jagmeet Singh, will be in a position to advance some key issues. In particular, decriminalization of hard drugs and expungement of criminal records for people convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis.
Singh could also get a bill passed outlawing racial profiling by federal police, customs, and intelligence officers, though it's hard to see how that would be enforced.
2. Svend Robinson will be back in Parliament
Long-time Burnaby MP Svend Robinson will accomplish one of the great political comebacks in Canadian history by rejoining the House of Commons after a 15-year absence.
It will come when Robinson, 66, defeats Burnaby North–Seymour Liberal MP Terry Beech, who will be 38 years old on election day.
Robinson will run as a New Democrat and have the quiet support Green Leader Elizabeth May, who will see him as an ally in the fight against the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.
In the last election, Beech won the riding by 3,401 votes. But that was before the Liberal government bought a pipeline company.
3. Greens will fail to make major breakthrough
Elizabeth May will be reelected in Saanich—Gulf Islands but her party will not make much headway in expanding its seat count.
Part of the reason is that the federal campaign will boil down to a simple choice: do people prefer Trudeau or Scheer to be prime minister. Fears over Scheer will lead many to vote for the Liberals as the better alternative.
The Greens will be plagued by a lack of money but May will benefit from being invited to participate in the two televised debates organized by the new Leaders' Debate Commission.
She'll do well enough to energize her supporters and possibly win a Green seat on Prince Edward Island or in Ontario. There's a very slim chance that the Greens could win Victoria, but the incumbent NDP MP, Rankin, will be very tough to beat.
Even though the Greens have done exceptionally well at the civic level in Vancouver, it's hard to see them winning any federal seats in the city, though their vote count should increase substantially.
However, the Greens will pick up several seats in the Prince Edward Island election on October 7, boosting party members' spirits.
4. Conservatives will misread Canadians' views on immigration
Canada has a substantially higher percentage of foreign-born voters than the percentage living in the United States.
Even though some of Canada's foreign-born citizens are among the most critical of liberal immigration rules, there's been a wellspring of support for immigration dating back for decades.
In 2018, some polling started to reveal growing concern in Canada about immigration. And this has emboldened the Conservative leader, Scheer, to position himself as a bit of a hardliner.
Scheer is protecting his right flank after his main leadership rival, Maxime Bernier, quit the caucus, formed his own party, and questioned whether Canada already had enough diversity. But at what cost?
The Liberal response has been to send out its minister of border security, the gruff and tough-talking former police chief Bill Blair, to calm down Canadians with anxiety about immigration. It's been an effective strategy so far.
But an Environics poll still showed that immigration is not a top-of-mind issue for most voters. They're far more concerned about the economy and other issues. Progressive voters care about the climate.
But Scheer will continue to play up immigration—just like his predecessor, Stephen Harper, played up the issue of a tiny number of Muslim women wearing face veils, or niqabs, in the 2015 campaign.
Expect the Conservatives to zero in on Trudeau's trip to India and whip up fears about Khalistani terrorism. It will backfire spectacularly in some suburbs with large immigrant populations, particularly Surrey and Delta in B.C., where immigration is a voting issue.
The reality is voters of Indian ancestry know that the Khalistan issue has been dead for 20 years and that anyone who plays that card is pandering to white voters and the Indian government.
Nevertheless, Scheer will make some inroads in Quebec and blunt the Bernier challenge, but the Conservatives won't have nearly enough seats to form a government.
1. China and the U.S. de-escalate trade war
There's too much at stake for both countries to ratchet up tariffs on one another's goods. Donald Trump got a glimpse of the consequences when stock markets plummeted in the wake of the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Declining stock markets could finish off the Trump presidency because that's what will turn Republicans against him.
China has its own concerns, which include growing public outrage over the slowing economy and containing nationalist unrest in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. It's already under fire for operating huge concentration camps there—and a deal with Trump would lessen the likelihood of his administration making this a bigger international issue.
Major hegemonic transitions involving the rise of one great power and the decline of another can be a recipe for war. While we're witnessing the rise of China, which has been unfolding over a 30-year period, we're not yet seeing the demise of the American empire.
Notwithstanding the most extreme U.S. hawks' desire for a pre-emptive strike on China, it's unlikely that Trump would create that level of instability—not to mention such widespread loss of life—in a year before a presidential election.
2. Climate change affects East Coast real estate markets
In recent years, hurricanes and other extreme weather events have led to storm surges and massive flooding along the Eastern Seaboard and along the Gulf of Mexico coastline.
That flooding is only going to intensify as carbon-dioxide emissions continue to rise and melting of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic and Antarctic ice accelerates.
In November 2018, the monthly average concentration of CO2 was 408.02 parts per million at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii—up from 405.12 parts per million in November 2017.
Back in 2009, climate-change writer Joe Romm suggested that coastal property values would crash many years before sea levels actually rose by several feet.
That's because once the public, mortgage lenders, and opinion leaders believed there was no way of preventing catastrophic sea-level increases, the market would plunge.
"When sellers outnumber buyers, and banks become reluctant to write 30-year mortgages for doomed property and insurance rates soar, then the coastal property bubble will slow, peak, and crash," Romm wrote in 2016.
In 2018, there was a growing number of stories on this topic—a year after 16 weather disasters, including Hurricane Harvey, created more than $300 billion in economic losses.
The waters around Boston are warming at an exceptionally high rate. In Miami "climate gentrification" is changing home values on the coast and inland, according to a Harvard study. Properties at higher elevations will be worth more in the future.
Local politicians on both coasts are drawing a great deal of attention to the impact of rising sea levels, including in Vancouver, where OneCity councillor Christine Boyle plans to raise the alarm in 2019.
As this issue percolates into the consciousness of the public, those expensive waterfront mansions will continue to fall in price—but particularly on the eastern coast of North America, where storms have created far more havoc.
3. A Star Is Born will be win the Academy Award for Best Picture
In recent years, members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences have been voting for arthouse films for Best Picture, even if they haven't always been huge box office successes.
Last year's winner, The Shape of Water, only generated US$63.9 million at the domestic box office, according to Box Office Mojo.
The 2016 Best Picture Oscar winner, Moonlight, fared worse, only earning US$27.9 million at the domestic box office.
The 2015 winner, Spotlight, and the 2014 winner, Birdman, earned US$45 million and US$42.3 million, respectively, at the domestic box office.
The consequences have been quite predictable: the TV audience for the 2018 Academy Awards show reached an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers in America, according to Forbes. That was down 20 percent from the previous year.
These awards are risking becoming irrelevant if the industry doesn't figure out a way to make this showcase become more appealing to larger audiences. It didn't help that the host of this year's Academy Awards show, Kevin Hart, had to step down two days after being named.
Putting A Star Is Born stars Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper at the centre of the action on Oscar night will help rescue the Oscars franchise. It may not be the best film of the year—many would argue in favour of Roma or Vice.
But for business reasons alone, nothing can really touch A Star Is Born, given that most of the other big box-office hits are superhero action flicks that are never selected as Best Picture.
There's an outside chance that Black Panther could break that jinx. But I wouldn't bet on it, given that most of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are old and white.More