By PATRICK HUNTER
As indicated in last week’s column, we are now into the International Decade of People of African Descent. So, at the top of my list of things that I am looking forward to is seeing what steps our governments, Canada and the provinces, will take as we begin the International Decade of People of African Descent. Among the items that would give me a good indication of what is to come are the beginnings of wide consultations with people of African descent with a view to uncovering and initiating programs, processes and objectives that would stand Canada in good stead as a leader in ameliorating the conditions of people of African descent (I am also a dreamer).
Sometime this year, we are expecting to go to the polls to elect a new federal government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be completing his term as the leader of a majority Conservative government.
Trying to stop Harper will be the current leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (yes, it’s still referred to as that – well, formally anyway), the leader of the New Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair.
Into that mix is the leader of the third party, Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau. He is trying to emulate his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, as prime minister of Canada.
Both Mulcair and Trudeau are untested in an election face-off. Mulcair succeeded the late Jack Layton, who led the NDP to the official opposition status. Trudeau replaced the ill-fated Michael Ignatieff, the first-time leader who not only lost the election, but failed to win his own riding. Also in the mix is the Green Party, for good measure.
“Looking forward to” is perhaps not really the best description of what we hope will be the outcome of the next general election. Some are hoping for a change in the government because of dissatisfaction with some of the directions – especially foreign policy directions – in which Harper has taken the country. And, of course, there are few other reasons for that disaffection.
You can also bet that the Liberal supporters – or those who want a change of government – may still have some nervous reservations about the new leader, Trudeau. Remember that the Liberals are coming off a couple of failed leaderships, Stéphane Dion and Ignatieff.
Others are watching to see whether Mulcair can take the New Democrats up the ladder to the ruling slot. That will be a major challenge. Jack Layton laid a foundation and many are wondering if Mulcair can build on it. Quebec will definitely have a strong influence in that outcome. It is the province that spurred the NDP into its current position.
Kathleen Wynne is beginning her second year as Premier of Ontario, inheriting the leadership of the Ontario Liberals and the premiership in 2013, and then achieving a full mandate of her own in 2014. She also inherited a few messes from the previous leader that will dog her government, although she has survived an early test – winning a majority government last year.
I am not sure what to expect. Hers is a different style of government from some we have seen in Ontario. On the face of it, I am hoping that her approach to equity will lead to greater improvements in the conditions of people of African descent in Ontario. So far, that seems to be low on her list of priorities.
We also have a new mayor of Toronto. I expect better behaviour from John Tory than our previous mayor, Rob Ford. Beyond that, there are only a few new members of the Toronto City Council. Tory has never held an elected position before. He was a leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, but never sat in the Legislature as a member. Yes, he has had leadership roles in the private sector and we know from experience that private sector and public sector roles differ in accountability, which in turn differ in behaviour patterns. In other words, I am not sure what to expect from Tory. He hasn’t started his term by instilling confidence that he will be giving some focus on issues in the Black community in that, as far as I can see, his office staff is a little short on persons of African descent.
Internationally, I am looking forward to the remainder of President Barack Obama’s term. Not that the term in office will end, but what he does now until the end. So far, within the last couple of months, especially since the results of the midterm elections, he has been bold. He has got the pundits talking and the Republicans for that matter. The Cuba move, the immigration move – just two of what could be some significantly positive moves. In a few weeks he will deliver his second-to-last State of the Union address. We may get a preview of some of his actions then. Or, he may just tease – not wanting to give the opposition too much leeway to begin to oppose him.
It could be an interesting year of changes – hopefully good, positive changes.
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