Before we get into the coming year we are still having a lot of problems just processing the major events in 2009 that will continue to affect politics, the economy and the way we Canadians view ourselves and the world.
Continuing old problems:
1. Security: A single man from Nigeria took a plane ride at Christmas that resulted in an incredible knee jerk reaction from the United States. The fellow was a known terrorist yet all those billion dollar security measures that annoy everyone travelling failed completely. This issue is going colour the American scene until March, perhaps even longer.
2. American healthcare reform: On Christmas Eve the United States Senate passed a bill that is quite different from the one passed by Congress, those two measures will have to be reconciled and 2010 is not long enough to absorb this issue for a country as polarized as the United States.
3. Canadians in Afghanistan: The fall out from the realisation that the federal government has been attempting to hide or appears to be hiding something about the treatment of prisoners in that God forsaken war over there is just the tip of a very sore spot with most Canadians. Without a doubt the war is a failure and can not be anything else. The Canadian Forces who risk their lives and die for nothing are too valuable for this stupid thing to continue and Parliament must deal with it or face the consequences at an election.
4. The economy: The recession is over in Canada but its residual affects will be here for a considerable part of the coming decade and maybe even longer as the government is inclined not to raise taxes despite unprecedented deficits. The drunken sailor spending of 2009 is not over and will continue even though the income for the country can not match that level of spending.
5. Law and order: The Federal government chants in unison how it is cracking down on crime while it would appear that its own police force, the RCMP is clearly out of control. It does not pay attention to inquiries, to recommendations by the complaints commissioner and besides killing Canadians and a Polish immigrant almost at will, one Mountie is accused of murdering an Ottawa policeman this week.
6. Vacuum of Canadian leadership: Across the country of Canada there are issues that are within the realm of the Canadian constitution as federal matters but because the present government is really little or no government at all these issues are being dealt with by the provincial governments. B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec all have environmental issues and are concerned about the issue of climate change but they are dealing with this issue on their own. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have monumental problems with First Nations people and their needs but they are on their own. Electrical problems in the Maritimes and Quebec are not being dealt with by the country but by those involved. Canadian medical institutions need medical isotopes but the Federal government is not paying attention. Fractious and regional issues coast to coast are being left unattended as the national government sees the country through its Alberta eyes.
Now let us consider some of those issues that shaped this passing decade and those that will be with us well into the teens.
It is my humble opinion that attitude might far outweigh the importance of events. The way we and others feel about things might clearly shape what happens.
During this first decade of the twenty-first century the legacy of ill feelings between Muslims and the people of the West and just as importantly those feelings in reverse must be the most important contributing factor to the cataclysmic 2001 attack of September 11th. It is for me the most important event of this past decade and that attitude isn't shifting one bit as we move into the second decade of the twenty-first century. The war in Iraq proved to the Muslim people that the West and particularly the United States and its close allies are without conscience and act completely in their own selfish interests.
The war in Afghanistan and peripherally Pakistan with the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Iran is not the winding down of some deep division among the people on this planet but it is the mounting and escalating movement toward even more and even much more serious conflicts. Both Pakistan and Iran now have nuclear weapons and have the ability to deliver these horrific weapons throughout their region. We have to assume that beyond their region is only temporarily safe but in time the threat will grow in its danger and expand in its capabilities. What I am predicting is that in 2010 the Afghanistan conflict will only more clearly define the nature of the coming conflict and in the coming decade both sides will go beyond sabre rattling to an all out war.
The response to the attack of 9-11 was incorrect as it labelled terrorism as the enemy and ignored the attitude and the funding that was producing that attitude from Saudi Arabia and other associated countries in the region. They were the real enemy and should have been dealt with nation to nation because ultimately that is what must happen.
Though this conflict grows in awareness to us all here in our own back yard we have some difficult legacy problems. During the first decade of the twenty-first century we had an opportunity to make some progress with sorting out the third world status of Canada's First Nations people. The Chretien government was heading in the right direction but for political and regional reasons the Harper government chose to abandon that process. We must give the Harper government credit for sorting out and apologizing for the residential school issue but things with First Nations people are growing worse. Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg have gang and criminal problems that stem directly from the remarkable facts of life for this "cast" system created and perpetuated by the Indian Act. This one is not going to go away and will get much worse within the next five years. It is based in attitude problems and those must first be altered to move toward some resolution. Money is not the issue.
United States of America
2010 is an election year in the United States when almost all of Congress and most of the states hold elections in November. The country is as divided as it was over slavery. That is not an exaggeration it is the truth as we look south of the border we see a country so polarized that political debate is not taking place. The right wingers consider the right wing political party, the Republicans as almost socialist and the Democrats are also deeply divided over the corruption in their government. It is not surprising to learn that viewed on a world scale the American political process is one of the most corrupt to be found anywhere. The way lobbying is carried out in the United States corporate and special interest groups openly bribe legislative officials and it is considered the norm.
Americans are in trouble. The hope of their new president is flattening because their expectations for him grossly over estimated the ability of a President to make a difference in a corrupt governmental culture.
In November the Republicans should do well in gaining some seats in congress, enough to rest control of the house to their side. In addition more that two thirds of the state governorships could fall into the hands of people who consider George Bush a leftist.
As we look back on the recession and the world's move toward recovery India stands out as a remarkable exception to what happened just about everywhere else. Their economy continues to grow, the country is making progress in economic and political developments and is one of the bright lights among the world's developing nations.
In 2010 India will continue to out perform the economies of other Asian nations and it is well on the way to making its huge population a positive factor rather than a drain on its economic development.
With the preoccupation of Europe and North America on Pakistan India can benefit from the reduced tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir and as their GDP grows steadily India continues to improve its quality of life.
In every way China has merely entered a new era of its Imperial nature. Though there is no longer a real Emperor of China the form of government is what has always been successful in such a massive country and that is to use an Imperial form of government. For the rest of the world it is for us to adjust and try to understand what that really means.
The dependence upon trade with United States becomes less of a problem as in 2010 the United States emerges from the recession and China is already well on the way to recovery for its internal economy is far more important than anything international.
This year China is much more willing to exercise its global power than it has in the past and its growing confidence allows it to increase the influence it has on world situations.
One definitely serious matter for the Chinese in 2010 is agriculture. The whole countries thriving economy is based on the ability of the country to feed itself well. The green revolution that moved them forward in the past was the use of potash as a fertilizer. They have drastically cut their consumption and that has dramatically affected us in Saskatchewan as major producers of what they need but by no using fertilizer there is a longer term effect which will kick in in the summer of 2010. For two years they have been using next to no potash and yields are going to begin to decline dramatically if they continue to boycott potash hoping to push the price of the commodity downward.
Israel and Palestine
The almost open warfare in Gaza this year really opened up some serious wounds and saw some major rifts between those people who have traditionally supported Israel. The Israelis are not making things look better for themselves as they continue to build in the occupied areas. They of course to not view the West Bank as "not Israel" and feel confident in building them.
So, what's next? The answer is simple. There is no reason for things to change. As it stands now the Israeli government is under no real pressure to do anything different and the nature of their government insures that the status quo will be maintained.
The Gaza conflict showed Hamas that it could cause a lot of trouble but could not improve a thing by lobbing old rockets into Israel. They are not overloaded with common sense so that without warning they could go through that process all over again.
The big issue in 2010 for Israel is far away in Iran where weapons now exist that can put nuclear warheads in their tiny little country. Is that really a possibility? Iran is unstable and if it could see some benefit from an attack on Israel for internal reasons or to punish the United States then anything is possible. The probability is low but a threat is all that is needed to cause the Israelis to take decisive action so that Hamas is the least of their worries.
As mentioned,d Iran's political system is highly unstable and various experts suggest that the government my stage a major purge of opposition people to solidify their situation. Using external issues, real or fabricated to deal with an unstable situation is almost par for the course in political complex arrangements like those that are found in Iran.
It is a fair prediction that the opposition tensions in Iran right now are less likely to continue if the leadership pulls back from its hard line position and there is a good chance that this is what they will do in February.
Almost everything hinges on developments along the Aghan/Pakistan border area. There is indication that Iran is involved and riots in the streets are just to much to deal with when you are fiddling with the United States and its demands.
Last year I was predicting serious suffering in Russia and the Ukraine but as it turned out the suffering was mostly in Ukraine and the small states along the southern border. Russia's problems are two fold. The problems of dealing with crime and corruption at the highest levels in the country's economy and the growing continuing threat from terrorist groups produced by Russian oppression of minorities in neighbouring states.
In 2010 Russia should begin to see increased wealth from petroleum and energy sales. Though they struggle with unemployment they have moved enough new industry into the country to see positive growth in a number of sectors. Most importantly Russia's agricultural sector is working and feeding its people.
The list of troubled countries last year is the same this year only now we must identify Nigeria and Somali as the two most serious problems. The world has written off Dafur in the Sudan and no one including Africans seems willing to do something about the total disruption of civility around Uganda, Kenya and the eastern Congo.
Somali is a pain to the world, from China to Canada navies have dispatched warships to the waters off the Somali coast to maintain shipping but these efforts though valiant are not solving the problem of a country that is without a working government.
This is the year for the United Nations to grapple with Somali. The organisation of African nations will have to put a massive invasion force together and conquer Somali. Though Ethiopia had a shot at doing this a second effort might be able to set up a provisional government but the underlying problems of this dysfunctional country is that old problem with fundamentalist Muslims. Success is unlikely.
Impossible to predict accurately natural disasters seem to be having an increasingly powerful affect on our fairly heavily populated world. The more people a big disaster causes more casualties and is more difficult to provide relief and assistance. During 2009 there were a number of nasty earthquakes, floods and weather disturbances and in 2010 there will also be similar challenges. However, the rise in ocean levels and the increased temperature of the ocean are making life in South East Asia perilous. Tsunamis are a threat but just old fashion Typhoons are a greater threat.
Watch out for continue earthquake/volcanic activity around the Pacific ring of fire. The earth's mantle on both sides of the Pacific is unstable and continues to pose an enormous threat to very heavily populated portions of the planet.
If you are watching the stock market thinking you are going to see a growing trend in the economic well being of the world's economy, think again. The stock market is due to 'correct' in late January and as late as March as the highs on the market are unsustainable. Indicators like the price of crude, gold and the exchange rate of the Canadian US dollar will give you a better view of what is really going on. Most experts call for a rise in the value of the Canadian dollar and I have done that for a number of years but the vast majority of Canadians live in Ontario and Quebec and they can't afford a higher dollar and the government will continue to take action to keep the Canadian dollar slightly below par throughout the year. However, crude is going to resume an upward trend but at a modest level as the US economy gets back on its feet and demand grows. If the price of gold continues to climb up and up and up the North America economy is still in serious trouble..
Here in Saskatchewan there has to be some serious ramifications for the government of Brad Wall over the absolutely ridiculous error in the budget. The collapse of the potash market was not unexpected yet it was a surprise to the Saskatchewan government. It makes one wonder who is minding the store. There is no election this year in Saskatchewan and for that Brad Wall and his fellow fools can breath easy for a couple more years.
There is a good chance of an election in Britain this spring and Gordon Brown is unlikely to retain government. The British political situation is confusing not just to us but to the Brits as well, but there is no question they are an unhappy lot.
Sports will play an important part in 2010. In February Canada will go through the angst of the Winter Olympics hoping and praying for a positive outcome by Canadian athletes. But, win or lose the results of the Olympics will be similar to the affects of the World Cup this summer on South Africa. The national spirit and self awareness of both countries will blossom during these huge international spectacles.
Climate change rhetoric seems to be building rather than reaching a level of acceptance. Albertans, those in power and otherwise want to ignore any and all topics related and it would appear the rest of the world has begun to see the fair Dominion of Canada as a huge disappointment when it comes to dealing with the environment. In Canada itself the majority of Canadians continue to be concerned but not enough to produce a majority government. Speaking of which, Canadians can expect to go to the polls in a spring election as Harper realises that the Liberal leader is now actually less popular than the one he replaced. However, the results of that election will be amazingly similar to the present one.
In South America various countries are building up their military forces. This process has been proceeding for the past four or five years and sooner or later someone is going to get careless. To a certain extent the United States and its agencies considered South and Central America to be their private playground but with their preoccupation with the Middle East they have been ignoring the former normal domination exercised by the US. At least once and perhaps more during 2010 there will be border clashes in Latin America.
Our hopes and passion with the Riders this fall and early winter came pretty close to winning the cup but 2010 is the year that the Riders will bare down and make it happen right from the start of the season to the end.
It would make me happy for the Habs to get into the Stanley Cup, that summer sports event that most of us ignore season after season but alas the Habs will not even make the play offs.
Spring in 2010 will be somewhat abrupt as the last March storm dashes across the province we will see sunlight that will get the tractors in the fields early this year with a light run off and a good warm April to get the crop out of the ground. May looks a little cool and wet but June will be hot this year as will July and August is a mixed bag hampering an early harvest that will be mostly off by the end of September.
In your home economics 2010 is the year that the food prices really take a big chunk of income. The whole food marketing chain is expected to grab for profits this year and there is little you can do about it other then plant a garden.
Interest rates are going to remain very reasonable until June but the credit card companies are going to bring down the wrath of government upon them to the extent of federal legislation being proposed but not passed to limit the freedom of VISA and MasterCard.
So what is the bottom line for 2010. Actually the outlook this coming year is vastly improved over the gloom and doom of 2009.
May every reader of this have a wonderful Happy New Year.