As I write this, 2003 hasn't quite yet come to an end, but I've already spent considerable time thinking about the year ahead.
We expect that every new year will bring a series of changes and fascinating events throughout Canada and the world some anticipated, some dreaded. However, this year – 2004 – is one of those years when the stage has already been set for our country to experience significant change, events and challenges.
Here's my own take on what to watch for in the coming months. Mad Cow Fallout: The Canadian beef industry ended the year with the news that American officials are linking Canada to a case of BSE discovered in the United States. For an industry which had barely begun to recover from the single case of BSE found in Alberta in May 2003, the consequences of this latest development, no matter where the cow originated, will be swift and devastating for the entire North American beef industry. The Canadian government must act quickly to establish a plan, in conjunction with U.S. officials, to mitigate losses and reassure consumers with a thorough investigation and full disclosure of the facts. Let's hope lessons have been learned from the Mad Cow disaster of 2003 and that the federal government recognizes the severity of the hardship facing Canadians whose livelihoods depend upon the beef industry. Canada in Afghanistan:
The federal Liberals will have to make hard choices about the Canadian Forces' ability to participate in overseas missions. The Chief of Defence Staff has already stated that our military is stretched to the limit. Insufficient equipment and personnel levels have forced Canada to pull out from other international commitments, but the federal government refuses to acknowledge the impending crisis in meeting our military and security obligations here at home and abroad. Meanwhile, with 3,600 Canadian troops committed to the mission in Kabul, watch in the early weeks of 2004 as military officials scramble to accommodate the Liberals unpredictable and haphazard approach to matters of defence.
The Liberals haven't produced a Defence Policy in more than a decade. Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Race: The new party has just been created, but a new leader must be chosen in less than three months. Watch for great candidates entering the race in January, followed by a vigourous debate filled with new ideas and renewed optimism in February and March. Federal Election 2004: I'm looking forward to the Conservative Party of Canada facing off with newly-appointed Prime Minister Paul Martin. This will be the test to see if Canadians are buying into his attempt to portray himself as the new broom in Ottawa. Will he succeed in convincing the electorate to forget that he's now reviewing the very spending policies and initiatives that he himself implemented just 18 months ago as Finance Minister? Or will voters look for a real change in government with the Conservative Party? Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2004!