Avoiding predictions… sort of

Crossing the threshold of a new year is a good time to both look back and look ahead. Not surprisingly then, Canadian politicians and political pundits alike have been preoccupied with making lists and predictions.

Canadian flagMagazines and newspapers published their typical ‘news-makers of the year’ features and year-in-review photo spreads. Television and radio programs highlighted issues expected to dominate the headlines in 2014, and the corresponding challenges facing our political leaders.

On New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Harper issued a statement highlighting 75 of the government’s “significant accomplishments in 2013.” The Prime Minister concluded by offering his assurance that the government would build on these achievements in 2014 in order to “secure prosperity and security for Canadians.”

I want to resist the temptation to start the year by making predictions for what lies ahead. After all, as I have argued in a past blog post, I don’t think the measure of political judgment should be predictive accuracy.

And in any case, a quick look back at the previous year only underscores the challenge of discerning the probability of future events in the realm of Canadian politics.

One year ago, who would have predicted:

  • That the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) would cease to exist, having been amalgamated into the new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (DFATD… awkwardly pronounced dee-fat-dee)?
  • That the Canadian War Museum’s newest special exhibition would be called Peace, and would feature several Mennonite-related artifacts?
  • That Prime Minister Harper would announce that his government is committed to establishing mandatory reporting requirements for Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies?
  • That the Canadian government would resist calls to arm opposition fighters in Syria, and that the response of western governments to the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be diplomacy rather than armed intervention?
  • That we would still be talking about the legislation to implement Canada’s commitment to the Cluster Munitions Convention, and that one of the last items of Parliamentary business for the year would lead to a small amendment to the bill?
  • That the Senate expense scandal—among numerous other political scandals—would only get bigger and bigger as the year went on?

I think the same holds true when we look to the political situation in other countries. Who would have predicted the changes we have seen in Iran over the past year?

Thus it seems to me that there is little point in speculating on what the big political stories will be for the coming year.

About the only certainty is that at least some of these stories will be about things that aren’t currently on the radar of the mainstream media. As always, we should expect that we will need to react to the unexpected.

Indeed, much of MCC’s advocacy is reactive. Many of the letters we write to the government—and many of the calls for action we promote among supporters—are in response to issues of the day.

To be sure, MCC’s advocacy is also rooted in longstanding partnerships, and deep commitments, that enable us to faithfully and effectively respond to the drama of the moment. And there is every reason to expect that we will be well placed to speak out on at least some of the big stories that emerge in the coming months.

Hope buildingPerhaps this will include Prime Minister Harper’s visit to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan later this month.

Perhaps this will include the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into the impact and legacy of residential schools in Canada.

Perhaps this will include the Canadian government’s marking of the 100th anniversary of World War I.

I’m sure there will be many more issues that, when we look back on the year, will have stretched and surprised us. Hopefully it will also be clear, at least in retrospect, that our efforts are aligned with the moving of God’s spirit as well as the unfolding drama of Canadian politics.

By Paul Heidebrecht, MCC Ottawa Office Director

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