Our pundits predict: Who and what to watch

From the Ottawa Citizen, December 31, 2018

We asked our regular columnists (and one guest!) to gaze into 2019 and answer two questions for Citizen readers.

 1). Aside from the big-party leaders, who are the potential

newsmakers Canadians should keep an eye on in 2019, and why?


Shachi Kurl (executive director of the Angus Reid Institute): I’ll suggest Jason Kenney, not in his role as Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader, but in the context of whether he ends up overshadowing Andrew Scheer in 2019 as the voice of Canadian Conservatism. (We could watch Ontario Premier Doug Ford ford for the same reasons). It would be dangerous for Scheer should this happen, as it would make it easier for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to attack him – not to mention the risk he would bear if Canadians were given an opportunity to view Kenney as a potential national leader.

The more obvious potential newsmaker for 2019 is Maxime Bernier, the former federal Conservative party MP who founded the People’s Party of Canada. With 338 alleged riding associations up and running, can he steal votes from Sheer’s Conservative Party of Canada where they matter most (suburban ridings in B.C. and Ontario) or will he merely skim the hardest-core right-wing vote in ridings that will return a CPC MP regardless?


Randall Denley (Ottawa political commentator and former Ontario PC candidate): Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips will be front and centre in the biggest national political issue of 2019. His challenge is to rally public opinion behind the provincial government’s plan to combat climate change without a carbon tax. Unless Phillips can turn the carbon tax into a political loser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontarians could be paying both the tax and the costs of the Ontario plan.


Susan Sherring (former Ottawa Sun city hall columnist, blogs at susansherring.ca): Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk will continue to affect our city for much of 2019. An NHL team has long been considered a key component of the now-muddled LeBreton Flats development.

Meanwhile, enter Tobi Nussbaum, the incoming chair of the National Capital Commission, who will be in charge of stickhandling this all-important project. (You have to wonder if Mayor Jim Watson now wishes he’d been more helpful to Nussbaum while he was still on council!)

 Mohammed Adam (Ottawa writer and former city hall journalist): There are only seven of them, but 2019 will be the year women make a mark on city council, and my potential newsmaker is Theresa Kavanagh. A former school board trustee who is no stranger to high-level politics, her learning curve will be shorter and she won’t be intimidated or over-awed by City Hall. And with former councillor and husband Alex Cullen whispering in her ear, she is well-placed to make an impact.

 2. What issue, currently a bit under the radar, do you think will rise to the surface in 2019?


Shachi Kurl: Low-profile issues aren’t really all that low-profile, they’re just napping. There is the asylum seekers/border crosser issue, and there is the outstanding issue of what happens to economic growth in Canada next year. While Canadians are presently occupied with carbon pricing and pipelines, both these issues cut across the political spectrum. Past NDP and Liberal voters are concerned about the situation at the border. Soft Liberal voters will be the ‘X’ factor in deciding who is best to run the country’s finances if things go off-track.


 Randall Denley: Expect to see substantial changes in provincial education spending in 2019. The deficit-busting Doug Ford government can’t meet its targets without serious reductions to its second-largest expense. Between 2003 and 2013, Ontario school spending went up 50 per cent while enrolment declined. That left Ontario with a school system our taxes can’t support. The more-of-everything era was fun while it lasted. Cutting school spending will be considerably less enjoyable.


 Susan Sherring: Sure, the city’s guns and gangs problem and the eventual opening of the much-delayed light rail system will grab headlines this new year. But there’s a growing awareness Ottawa simply can no longer ignore its homelessness problem. The city has increasingly been relying on hotels and motels to house homeless families. That’s not cost-effective and it’s no way to live. With Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney recently appointed as the city’s housing and homelessness liaison, expect this issue to finally get the attention it deserves.

 Mohammed Adam: Watch for the implementation of Ontario’s Inclusive Zoning regulations that allow municipalities to demand or mandate a certain percentage of affordable housing in new developments. Developers don’t like the policy but housing advocates do. Once city planners complete their review, a big fight is likely between developers and affordable housing advocates over implementing this policy.

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