Ray Rivers looks at 2013; saw scandal, corruption, a new Pope and a political leader who will expand our smoking choices.

December 30, 2013

By Ray  Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  There is no question that Rob Ford was Canadas newsmaker of the year.  The chief magistrate of Canadas largest city, by his own admission, smoked illegal substances and hung around with criminals and drug dealers. He lied to everybody about these and other nefarious activities, and then was forced to apologize ever so insincerely when his back was up against the wall.  His antics have made him and his city an international laughing-stock.

 2013 was, indeed, a year of scandal and corruption.  Montreal’s city hall, arguably, was worse than Torontos, though not nearly as colourful.  Then there was the Senate fiasco.  Stephen Harpers political maneuvering of Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau and Wright came back to bite him.  The pawns doing his bidding were cast aside with the Machiavellian flare of which he is so capable.  T he king doth protest too much, me thinks.

The country seemed to experience one calamity after another. Oil cars running along railway tracks totally out of control.

 This was also a year of calamity.  Call it global climate change or not, 2013 had its share of extreme weather events, including the worst flood event in Albertas history, more flooding in Toronto, deadly and record tornado activity in the US and Australia, and finally southern Ontarios Christmas ice-capade.

The damage to north Burlington was nowhere near that of Quebec’s Lac Megantic – ours had a certain beauty to it.

The federal government, in an unprecedented action, allowed a tycoon to steam his oil-laden train with only a single operator, contributing to the loss of downtown Lac-Mégantic and the deaths of many of its residents

 Edward Snowden claims the title of international news maker for 2013.  Ironically granted refuge in near-totalitarian Russia, his revelations of US (and Canadian) Orwellian spying activities will secure his place in history as a hero for freedom and the right to privacy.  Iran started talking to the rest of the world this year, and agreed to temporarily halt its nuclear program.  Syria has agreed to allow the US and Russia to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile.  And Russia has shown uncharacteristic tolerance in releasing our Greenpeace activists and its own Pussy Riot punk band members in advance of the winter Olympics.

Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

Baby George has brought the promise of renewal to the Royal family and, though less regal, I was blessed with a new granddaughter this year.  Ontarios Alice Munro won the Nobel prize for literature, making her Canadas greatest living writer. The global economy continued to slowly recover as Europe dug out of the Euro zone crisis, and the worst Congress in US history narrowly avoided another economic meltdown.

 Kathleen Wynne inherited Ontarios Liberal leadership, and with it a very messy legacy from her predecessor.  Her abilities and demeanour have become assets in dealing with the gas plant fiasco, a dysfunctional City of Toronto, and a public sector that places its own financial well-being ahead of the public interest. 

 The new pope Francis brought a breath of fresh air and hope to a religion on the path to eternal irrelevance.   The Supreme Court struck down dated laws which had made the oldest profession one of the most dangerous.  Justin Trudeau announced his partys policy to legalize marijuana, following the lead by the US states of Washington and Colorado.   Quebecs PQ government has opened a bridgehead in the fight for sovereignty with a social values charter, as a complement to the decades old language law in that province.

And then there were the rest of us.  The devastation of the ice storm just a few days ago has been met by an even greater force – the unsung heroes in our community.  Whether it be the tireless power workers, coming from across the province to turn our light back on; my favourite Milton Councillor who emailed everyone she knew and opened her heart and home to them in their time of need; or a dear friend who directs a non-profit organization committed to housing needy seniors, spending his holidays tending to their needs in the wake of the storm and its aftermath. 

Is 2014 going to be a great year for Burlington, for Canada and for the world?

2013 – We didn’t experience one of those – what an improvement for the better events, but we managed to keep ourselves afloat.  I’ll come back with the view I have from my perch on what 2014 could do for us.

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

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3 comments to Ray Rivers looks at 2013; saw scandal, corruption, a new Pope and a political leader who will expand our smoking choices.

  • Joan Turbitt

    p.s. I should have said his, humanitarianism.

  • Joan Turbitt

    Well written Ray and diplomatically in some cases, overview of our last year. I would add re: Pope Francis, I very much approve of humanitarianism and its’ wisdom should apply to all people everywhere, as a way of life, not to one specific religion.

  • Brenda Oliver

    Well written and well thought out artical, Ray. Congratulations to you and Jean on your first granddaughter–What is her name?