The time has come to trudge through the cold to classes, leave the hibernation of holidays, and catch up on all the news you may have been ignoring. As most of us were choosing outfits and chilling champagne on New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Harper was busy highlighting his government’s 2010 accomplishments. While US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered more sombre addresses to their nations, bluntly commenting on the year in review and outlooks for the future, Harper waxed poetic about the great Conservative achievements of 2010. However, 2010 was not a banner year in Canadian history. And at the rate we’re going, with the current leadership in place, 2011 will likely be no better.

alt text
In Harper’s statement, the grand successes of 2010 include: his government’s Economic Action Plan, which created over 440,000 new jobs from July 2009; hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto. In conclusion, the prime minister commented that “This has been a momentous year for Canada, and we can all be proud of the many successes achieved, both here at home and around the world.” However, determining whether such events measure as successes is a subjective matter.

Some of the accomplishments Harper highlights are certainly commendable. Yet his statement is the tip of the iceberg in terms of Canada’s year, and what lies beneath is significantly less perfect. In November, the Senate rejected Bill C-311 to cut greenhouse gases, as Canada continues its dismal performance in combatting climate change. And all of the talk about tackling crime does not include any mention of support systems to prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place.

Remember the prorogation of Parliament? Around this time last year we were exchanging lame jokes about proroguing due dates. The government decided to suspend Parliament for two months, until after the Vancouver Winter Olympics. That’s part of what hosting the Olympics meant for Canada.

Perhaps the truly frightening aspect of 2010’s prorogation was how it exposed the apathy of the Canadian public. In a Harris-Decima poll conducted at the time, 46 per cent were indifferent to the government’s decision, 34 per cent were unhappy with it, and 15 per cent were happy. So the government can go on doing and saying what it likes, and most of us won’t care enough to find out what that is, let alone form an opinion on it.

Then we have the G8 and G20, hardly jewels in the Canadian 2010 crown. Can Canadians be proud of what Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin called “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history,” which “amounted to martial law in Toronto?” The list of G8 and G20 expenses is fairly embarrassing: $1.9 million for a “fake lake” pavilion in Huntsville; $14,000 for glow sticks, because Canada is home of the best raves; $2.2 million for one day’s worth of car rentals; and one of the biggest points of contention, a security bill of almost $1 billion. Pittsburgh hosted the G20 in September 2009 and only spent $18 million US in total, with none of the vandalism to businesses that Toronto suffered. The greater expense for Canada is partially due to hosting both summits, but also to a clear lack of organization and accountability.

In October 2010, Canada lost its bid for a position on the UN Security Council for the first time in 60 years. Apparently the international community is concerned with more than the hosting skills of a nation. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon blamed the loss on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s statement that Canada would not win the seat because Canada did not deserve it. Realistically, that statement probably did not reach voters. The comment of NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar best sums up the loss, that the Harper government has “formulated a foreign policy based on domestic gain and talking points.” Canadian withdrawal from the UN Kyoto Protocol, its unabashed pro-Israel stance, cutting aid to Africa, and moving away from UN peacekeeping probably lost the seat. Yet Cannon dismissed that idea, saying “I do not in any way see this as a repudiation of Canada’s foreign policy.”

For many Canadians, 2010 has been more of a year of embarrassment more than of pride. If we performed so well internationally, where is the recognition? If we are so concerned with our place in the international community, where is the foreign policy? The refusal of the Canadian government to acknowledge or take responsibility for the realities of the year is frightening. As we begin 2011 with the possibility of another federal election few will really care about, may we, as voters, reflect on the year behind us and vow to make our voices heard in the year ahead.