2017 predictions for B.C., Canada, the United States, and the world

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      It's been called the age of rage. Anti-elite, populist anger propelled the Brexit movement in the U.K., the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., and a public rebellion against foreign buying of residential real estate in Vancouver in 2016.

      It was as if many millions of people were all caught up in the spirit of Howard Beale, the anchor in the 1976 film Network, who declared "I am mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

      Part of it is driven by exasperation that as the rich are getting wealthier, the rest are seeing incomes stagnate or even decline.

      The post-2008 period in America has been described as the rich man's recovery by economist Paul Krugman. Back in 2013, he wrote that 95 percent of the gains following the last economic meltdown went to the top one percent of U.S. income earners. And 60 percent of the gains went to the top 0.1 percent.

      It's not just income inequality that's troubling so many people. It's also job security as more machines do work previously performed by human beings.

      Whole categories of employment, including cashiers and taxi drivers, face an uncertain future with the rise of automated checkout counters and driverless cars.

      The word precarious is routinely used nowadays to describe people's employment status. It's become part of the economic lexicon.

      According to international commentator Gwynne Dyer, it's one of the most important issues facing humanity, and there's not much that Donald Trump will do to address it.

      Howard Beale was mad as hell in Network, and 40 years after the film's release, the same could be said of people in Britain and the United States.

      As we enter 2017, it remains to be seen what impact this rising inequality and job insecurity is going to have around the world.

      In Asia last year, the age of rage was on display in the election of new presidents in Taiwan (Tsai Ing-Wen) and the Philippines (Rodrigo Duterte), as well as in the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

      It was also apparent in Latin America. As the year closed, former Argentina president Cristina Kurchner was facing corruption charges, former Brazilian president Dilma Roussef had been impeached, and Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was deeply unpopular as falling oil prices crippled his country's economy.

      So what's in store for this year? Here are a few predictions for B.C., Canada, and the world.

      Finance Minister Mike de Jong and Christy Clark have tried to respond to angry populism, but it might turn out to have been too little, too late.

      British Columbia

      1. The B.C. NDP will win the 2017 provincial election on May 9. Despite Premier Christy Clark's attempts to tame the rage with a foreign-buyers tax on Metro Vancouver homes and five-year, interest-free loans to first-time home buyers, it won't be enough. Clark's sudden conversion to populism late in her term will not quell the anger over perceptions that average people are not getting ahead. Boneheaded moves like her approval of the Site C Dam and accepting a $50,000 salary to moonlight as leader of the B.C. Liberals will haunt her, much to the surprise of provincial political pundits. On May 10, B.C. will wake up to a bunch of new NDP MLAs. Andrew Weaver will be the only Green candidate elected.

      2. The next MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake, Anne Kang, will become B.C.'s first cabinet minister of Taiwanese descent. Political veterans Bruce Ralston, Harry Bains, and Jinny Sims will give Surrey a strong presence in cabinet, which will also include Adrian Dix, David Eby, and George Heyman from Vancouver.

      3. The B.C. NDP government will announce a moratorium on construction of the Site C Dam. This will infuriate contractors. Horgan will request an expedited review from the B.C. Utilities Commission.

      4. We will hear a lot more about softwood lumber in 2017 as the Trump administration demands greater concessions from Canada. British Columbia has long been accused of subsidizing its forest industry by offering it cheap publicly owned timber. There were 65,500 people directly employed in the B.C. forest industry in 2015, according to a B.C. government report published last year. Trump will try to incorporate forestry into a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement whereas in the past it's been covered by separate deals. That's because bringing lumber under NAFTA will show to Trump-friendly lumber-producing states—such as Alaska, Georgia, Alabama, Montana, and Mississippi—that he's standing up for them. This will remain a contentious issue to the end of 2017.

      5. Despite predictions in late 2016 that there will be a major drop in Vancouver housing prices, the status quo will prevail for another year, with just minor downward and upward fluctuations. Strong interprovincial migration and immigration will be two factors. A third will be the shortage of new supply coming onto the market in many municipalities. This will confound doomsayers who expect a housing crash after U.S. interest rates rise.

      UBC Sauder School of Business professor Tom Davidoff offers a pessimistic outlook on real-estate prices in an interview with agent Steve Saretsky.


      1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have a better-than-expected relationship with the next U.S. president, Donald Trump. Trudeau will applaud Trump for trying to get the Keystone XL pipeline back on track. While the softwood lumber dispute will remain a major trade irritant, Trudeau will repeatedly speak about how both leaders are keenly interested in helping the middle class.

      2. The Trudeau government's marijuana-legalization regime will attract criticism from pot-legalization activist Marc Emery for being too draconian and from Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose for being too lenient.

      3. Vancouver venture capitalist Rick Peterson will perform surprisingly well in the federal Conservative leadership race, though he won't win. But his political currency will rise, leading the eventual winner to want him to run in 2019, either in Vancouver Quadra or Vancouver Granville. Another B.C. candidate, Andrew Saxton, will hang on to the bitter end, but won't prove charismatic enough to win the support of many delegates. Kellie Leitch, Kevin O'Leary, and Lisa Raitt will also not win the Conservative leadership race. Their lousy French will do in this trio. It will come down to a fight between Max Bernier, Andrew Scheer, and Michael Chong, who are all bilingual. O'Leary will end up supporting Bernier because of his ardent support for free-market capitalism.

      Jagmeet Singh could emerge as a serious contender for the federal NDP leadership in 2017.

      4. Ontario NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh will emerge as a serious candidate in the federal NDP leadership race. This will scare the Liberals, who assumed they had a lock on Sikh support in Vancouver South, Delta, Surrey-Newton, Surrey Centre, and several ridings in Alberta and Ontario.

      5. Singh's competitors for the NDP leadership will include Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, and Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice. NDP MP Nathan Cullen will also join the race after the B.C. NDP wins the provincial election. This will cause some party cynics to claim his first choice was to become the next premier of B.C. after Christy Clark, but that job has already been filled by Horgan. The media will be impressed that the NDP can offer up so many fluently bilingual candidates, unlike the Conservatives. This will help the NDP's prospects in Quebec, notwithstanding the knifing of former leader Tom Mulcair. Left wingers will wish that former Quebec student leader and environmentalist Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois or documentary producer Avi Lewis had thrown their hats into the ring, but that won't happen.

      Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has some controversial views about Muslims.

      United States

      1. It will become increasingly apparent that Donald Trump's foreign policy, like that of the last Republican president (George W. Bush), is inextricably linked to U.S. energy policies. Trump's primary focus will be on trying to raise the price of oil while encouraging far more drilling. This will not only benefit Trump's campaign contributors, but it will also help the economies of major oil producers, including Russia.

      2. One way to lift oil prices is to drive down production in unfriendly countries, notably Iran. It's not out of the question that Trump's aides, including hardline national security adviser Michael Flynn, will dream up an excuse to justify regime change in Tehran. Russia will look at this with some concern, but the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, will assure Vladimir Putin that it won't jeopardize his interests in Syria and it just might improve the Russian economy.

      3. Relations between the United States and China will deteriorate. China will vehemently oppose the Trump administration's efforts to disrupt the economy of Iran and encroach into Central Asia, which the Beijing government increasingly sees as its sphere of influence. The assassination of Philippines president Duterte will further complicate matters as the world points its fingers at the American government. Duterte's shift away from the U.S. and toward China will upset the so-called Amboys (powerful friends of the Americans in the Philippines), who will put an end to his presidency.

      4. Relations between the United States and India (often a rival of China) will also go downhill, though this won't attract nearly as much media attention in North America. Even though Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has exploited hostility to Muslims to gain political advantage, he will be unimpressed by Trump's refusal to see that Iran has been a useful bulwark for the Indian government against Sunni extremism in Pakistan. As well, Modi is not going to enjoy dealing with the effects of higher world oil prices, especially when Iran has been India's largest supplier. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, will try to appease Modi, but this will have little effect, notwithstanding Haley's Indian heritage.

      5. U.S. interest rates will rise. The Bank of Canada will be slow to follow suit because higher world oil prices will already be giving a boost to the value of the Canadian dollar.

      The future of Chinese president Xi Jinping could be the biggest political story in the world in 2017.


      1. Xi Jinping will remain leader after China's important party congress in 2017. He will beat back a challenge by hardliners, which will cause the governments of Taiwan and Japan to heave a sigh of relief, not to mention some residents of Hong Kong. But it will not be welcomed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who was hoping that jingoistic hardliners would triumph over Xi, whom Kim views as an untrustworthy, internationally oriented running dog of capitalist imperialism. Xi's survival will be the most important political news story of 2017, though this will not be fully appreciated in the West. Xi's selective crackdown on corruption will continue, resulting in more headlines in Canadian media outlets about alleged Chinese gangsters moving their ill-gotten gains to Vancouver.

      2. Alibaba Group executive chairman Jack Ma will be viewed with more suspicion in the West in 2017 not only over the sale of counterfeit goods, but also because of his close relationship with the government of China. Ma will try to counter this by playing up how Alibaba is making western products available to Chinese consumers.

      3. Marine Le Pen will not be elected president of France. Her National Front will be thwarted again. And she'll step down as leader when she realizes she can't win even in a time of heavy terrorism and after shedding her father and the open anti-Semitism he brought to the party. An uninspiring former prime minister, François Fillon, will emerge as the least worst choice of French voters, which also explained why François Hollande won the last French presidential election.

      4. The government of Japan will face some surprising economic problems as a result of Abenomics, which is the term used to describe Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic-stimulus program. Loose monetary policy combined with large deficits will put the country in a more precarious position, as will Donald Trump's more nationalistic economic policies. Adding to Japan's problems will be its dependence on increasingly expensive foreign oil.

      5. The petering out of the Syrian civil war will reduce the exodus of Syrian refugees to Europe. But the continuing mass migration of Africans, driven in part by climate change and in part by political instability, will result in more sad stories in the media of boatloads of refugees sinking in the Mediterranean Sea.