680News political affairs specialist John Stall on politics.See more blogs
Looking back on 2007 and ahead to 2008
Happy New Year — from our place to yours. I’ve been laying low for the last week-and-a-half enjoying the holiday season in the country. It was a picture-and-family-perfect Christmas. Hope yours was what you hoped it would be, and if not, then at least not too painful. I was reflecting on the eve of a new year on some of the news events that moved me (for better or for worse) over the past year and thinking ahead about some of the developments I think will take place. Here they are: As one who has followed Conrad Black’s business career for decades, including a period of time when I worked for a radio station he owned, it was surreal to sit close enough to hear his heart beat on the opening day of his trial in Chicago. It was arresting to hear the prosecutors present their opening statements to the jury, while circling the accused and pointing their fingers at them likening them to robbers who wear masks and carry guns. I sat right behind his beautiful wife Barbara Amiel and wondered what was going through her mind as they viciously portrayed her husband as a criminal. It was among the many front-row seats I’ve had in my career that I will never forget. I was also terribly embarrassed to be the first journalist to have my cell phone ring so loudly as the drama was unfolding that I was thrown out of the courtroom for the rest of the day by Judge Amy St. Eve. Cell phones going off became an ongoing disruption throughout the trial, but she never got to the point (I don’t think) of banning them from the court. I must say that on that first day of the trial, I did not think that Conrad Black would get a jail sentence of six-and-a-half years. I don’t think he did either.
I wasn’t convinced before the Ontario Election in October that John Tory could win, mostly because I didn’t sense the people of Ontario were mad enough at or disappointed enough in Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government to re-elect it on election day. In fact , I didn’t sense that the people of Ontario thought an election was necessary at all. We only had one because of the fixed date legislation the Liberals introduced shortly after they defeated Ernie Eves. I sure didn’t expect the religious school funding policy to form a major plank of the Tory campaign and I sure didn’t expect John Tory to loose his own seat. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time I was being asked by Conservative insiders and fundraisers if I thought Tory was committed enough to stick around as leader if he didn’t become premier in October. That tide has turned to weather or not the party wants Tory to stay around despite his own intentions. He faces a tough early new year as the party considers a “Leadership Review” in February. Despite the significant loss, I still think John Tory is the most able candidate to lead the Ontario Conservatives.
The victory for Dalton McGuinty, in my view, provides him with a wide open field in Ontario to do anything he wants. Now that the promise breaking monkey has been lifted from his back, I expect the Premier will focus on a legacy before stepping aside for a new Liberal Leader before the next election. I expect he will be more accessible than he has been and will assume a much higher profile than he did during his first term.
I didn’t expect the federal Liberals to be shutout of by-elections including the Liberal stronghold of Outremont in Montreal. I think that loss sent a strong signal to the federal party that it chose the wrong leader at its convention last December. I don’t think that Stephane Dion is electable by the country. I think the current Harper government will fall on a vote of non-confidence over it’s spring budget and that we will be into a spring election. I think that election will result in another Harper minority government and that Stephane Dion will step down sending the Liberals in search of a new leader. I think it will be “Iggy.”
I shook my head in amazement at the site of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney before the Commons ethics committee admitting he took “cash money in an envelope” from German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. It may not have been illegal, but it’s the kind of stuff I expect to hear from two-bit municipal politicians who aren’t smart enough or ethical enough to keep a distance between them and the business sharks who may try to curry favour — not former prime ministers. So these are just a few thoughts I have as the year comes to a close. We at 680News of course continue to appreciate the time and commitment you give to our daily programming and promise to return that commitment. Talk to you in 2008. Have a good one!