Saturday, January 01, 2011

10 Events to Watch in 2011

Not sure what 2011 holds in store for political geeks? Here's a quick rundown:

10. Prairie Punch-ups: Manitoba and Saskatchewan will both go to the polls this fall. Premier Brad Wall will face the voters in November trying to win re-election for the Saskatchewan Party. Wall's popularity and power seem to be at all time highs making an NDP win here highly unlikely. Over in Manitoba, Greg Selinger, who may be the least known premier in the country, will try to win his first election after taking over for now Ambassador Gary Doer. The NDP may have a tougher test on their hands this time around as early polling shows the PC's under Hugh McFadyen ahead. There is a long list of first ministers who have taken over while their party was in power and have subsequently lost their first election. Selinger's name might get added to the list in October.

9. The King is Dead, Long Live the Queen?: Danny Williams made a national name for himself as premier, his successor has big shoes to fill. They won't have a long time to work out the blisters as Newfoundland and Labrador head to the polls on October 11th. With Kathy Dunderdale seeking the PC leadership, there is a possibility of having an election where the leaders of all three major parties are led by a woman. If it happens, Chantal Hebert will probably complain that Newfies rejected two female leaders.

8. Rand Paul Turns Into a Pumpkin at Midnight: The Tea Party will have its biggest test early this year as Tea Party sweethearts like Ricky Rubio and Rand Paul will have the opportunity to literally stop the US government from taking on more debt. The Congress actually has to pass a law in order to raise the debt ceiling. A filibuster from Paul or Rubio could theoretically derail the US government and much of the world's economy. Governing can do some strange things to principles and this vote will put it to the test.

7. Endless Federal Election Speculation: You can make an excellent case that now is as good a time as any to hold a federal election. You can also make an excellent case that there's absolutely no point in holding a federal election right now. Which one of these arguments holds currency with Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff this year will determine whether or not we have an election. With four provincial and two territorial elections scheduled for the fall, expect the spring budget debates to be the focal point of the speculation.

6. Can a Sudanese House Divided, Stand? Southern Sudan will hold a referendum in 2011 to decide whether or not to become independent of Khartoum. The answer is widely expected to be yes. The bigger question is would such a result be accepted peacefully by the government in Khartoum. If the answer to that question is no, the dormant civil war may erupt anew. Why should you care? Well, the price of gas will likely rise if the people in the south vote yes.

5. AKP, 1,2,3?: June 12, 2011 is the date that Turkey will elect a new government. More realistically, they will re-elect the current AKP government led by Prime Minister Erdogan to a third consecutive term. Turkey's new natural governing party looks to be finally free of any constitutional opposition to it governing. The AKP or Justice and Development Party is on the one hand in favour of a more public place for Islam in Turkish society and on the other hand a major proponent of accession into the EU. Expect the future of both those burning issues to be discussed at length in the run-up to this vote.

4. 1 and 2 and 3 Canadians: Yes, 2011 is a census year. That means the first ever voluntary long form census. Oh the statisticians are going to be angry. Perhaps, more consequentially the clock is officially ticking on the Tories plan to get the House of Commons to look more like Canada. Elections Canada is going to start redrawing electoral boundaries once they have the 2011 census numbers. The process of getting the data and then turning it into electoral districts usually takes a couple of years. Presumably the Tories have until the census data is tabulated to get the house in order.

3. The Politically Windy City: Why is a mayor's race in Chicago so interesting? Well, first of all nobody named Daley is running. Second of all, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is running in his old boss' adopted hometown. Finally, competitive elections in Chicago always bring out the worst in politics. This should be a bloodbath.

2. Dalton's Swansong: The obituaries are already being written for the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. However, the voters don't get a chance to officially kill the government until October. Tim Hudak certainly has to be the favourite at this early point but campaigns do usually matter. Just ask John Tory. Hudak is playing his cards close to the vest at this point. It will be interesting if he is ever forced to show just how right wing a hand he really has. Expect a lot of Mike Harris references from the Grits.

1. Sarah Palin's Iowa: Yes, technically the Iowa Caucuses are in 2012 but most of the campaigning will take place this year. Sarah Palin will likely be involved which will ramp up the media coverage to an unprecedented level. To my mind, Iowa is a must-win for the former Alaska governor as she may end up an afterthought in New Hampshire. There are other potential candidates beyond Palin, lots of them. How many of them can find any oxygen with media darling Palin in the race, is anyone's guess. Haley Barbour, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, John Kyl and even Ricky Rubio are on the long list of presidential hopefuls. CNN may need to build a bigger stage for the early debates.

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