With Parliament on its holiday break, MPs and senators have headed home to their ridings. They’re not expected to return to town until the end of January.
It’s been a heck of a year on the political front.
From the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement to the daily barrage of unexpected tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump and the White House, several major court decisions, political turnover in provincial governments and ongoing concerns about oil prices — there’s been no shortage of things to write about.
Those wishing for a calmer 2019 shouldn’t get their hopes up.
When MPs take their seats in the new House of Commons chamber on Jan. 29, next year’s election will be in full swing, albeit unofficially, because under election rules, campaigns cannot begin until the writ has formally dropped.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ruled out the possibility of an early election. Pending any last minute surprises, Canadians will head to the polls, as scheduled, on Oct. 21.
Many issues are brewing.
For one thing, Parliament has yet to ratify the pending NAFTA 2.0 trade deal, which Canada, Mexico and the United States signed on Nov. 30.
Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, has since tabled the text of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), also known as the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA), in the House of Commons.
It’s unlikely the House of Commons would consider implementation legislation before the end of February, barring any last minute procedural surprises.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether the deal will pass through the U.S. Congress after several high-ranking Democrats expressed concerns about the agreement. The Democrats are set to take over the House of Representatives in January.
For his part, Trump has mused about withdrawing from NAFTA as a way to exert pressure on Congress to pass the deal.
Expect more uncertainty on the trade front heading into 2019.
Closer to home, western alienation sentiments continue to blossom in parts of the Prairies thanks to a continued price gap between Alberta oil (Western Canada Select) and Texas oil (West Texas Intermediate).
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said the province will cut oil production in the province by 8.7 percent starting Jan. 1.
She’s also said the province is looking to purchase more rail cars to move oil and has said the Alberta government is also looking into the viability of building its own oil refinery.
The last time the Alberta government mandated an oil production cut was under Premier Peter Lougheed after then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau instituted the National Energy Program, a program that is still thought of with anger in Alberta decades later.
The anger in Alberta today is unlikely to dissipate. Over the past few weeks, communities across the province have seen energy workers and others take to the streets to voice their frustrations with the federal government.
Add to this the ongoing anger about the Trudeau government’s carbon tax and tensions between Ottawa and the provinces.
In the past couple weeks, there have been rumblings of rising separatist sentiments in Alberta. While those discussions seem to ignore the fact Alberta would remain a land-locked body regardless of whether it separated or not, even mutterings of separation speak to a broader issue.
That issue is this: many western Canadians feel ignored by Ottawa.
Whether or not those feeling are warranted is irrelevant less than a year from an election. If the past few years have taught political junkies anything it’s this: voters who feel ignored can wield significant political power.
The recent elections of Trump in the United States and Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirm this.