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VIEW FROM VANCOUVER -- Elections, trade deals on tap for 2013

Canadians will find 2013 shaping up as a pivotal year for voters in several provinces.

British Columbians, who give low marks to their current premier, have been looking forward to expressing themselves at the ballot box. They’ll get their chance on May 14.

Christy Clark isn’t the only premier whose tenure hangs in the balance. Nova Scotians, with an NDP government led by Darrell Dexter since 2009, are expected to go to the polls.

Quebec and Ontario, too, could possibly have provincial votes in 2013. That’s because a Parti Québécois government in Quebec, with a minority, is on shaky ground, as is Ontario’s minority Liberal government.

Ontario’s last vote was in October 2011, but with a Liberal leader to be chosen in January to replace Dalton McGuinty, the push will be on for him/her to secure a new mandate.

Another Liberal leader — at the federal level — will be chosen in 2013, with all eyes on Justin Trudeau. The first candidates’ debate is set for Jan. 20, in Vancouver.

If Trudeau becomes leader following an April 14 vote, the big question is whether Pierre Elliott’s son can rekindle Trudeaumania and perhaps change the dynamics of the federal political scene.

With the U.S. election out of the way and Barack Obama in the White House for another four years, Canadians will be keen to see what measures he takes over the next 12 months to address U.S. fiscal woes. Canadians know that when the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has warned that 2013 growth will be modest at about two per cent. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, meanwhile, projects growth of 1.5 per cent. For a second time, Flaherty pushed back his projection for a balanced budget, to 2015-16.

The future of several important trade pacts will be determined in 2013. Canada, keen to expand trade beyond the fiscally faltering U.S., is negotiating with the European Union and India, among others, for deals aimed at boosting bilateral trade. Canada is also a party to the expansive Trans Pacific Partnership talks, which could threaten Canadian protectionism for dairy and poultry products.

Canada’s crucial trade and investment relationship with China — bolstered by Ottawa’s approval of Chinese company CNOOC’s takeover bid of Nexen Inc. — will further evolve in 2013, as Canada figures out what it wants out of that relationship. Repercussions for the economy also will flow from prospects for the controversial $6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker port in B.C.

A highly anticipated recommendation by a federal review panel is due by Dec. 31.

In 2013, the Supreme Court could pronounce on the constitutionality of Senate reform. Harper’s government has put forward a bill calling for an elected senate and term limits for senators.

April of next year will see an end to a pay freeze for senators and MPs, imposed three years ago. MPs now receive base pay of $158,000. Liberals favour an extension of the freeze while New Democrats want the matter decided by an independent third party.

And 2013 is the year B.C. will return to its old system of sales taxes. After a hard-fought struggle in 2011 to dump the 12 per cent HST, British Columbians return April 1 to their preferred seven per cent PST and five per cent GST.

Alas, in the process Victoria must start a five-year repayment plan for the $1.6 billion Ottawa advanced for HST implementation.

And, of course, in the summer of 2013, the Duchess of Cambridge is expected to deliver a future Canadian head of state, to succeed Charles and William. Not the most egalitarian way to arrange such a succession but, unfortunately, it is ours.

» Barbara Yaffe is a national affairs columnist for the Vancouver Sun. 

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 4, 2013

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Canadians will find 2013 shaping up as a pivotal year for voters in several provinces.

British Columbians, who give low marks to their current premier, have been looking forward to expressing themselves at the ballot box. They’ll get their chance on May 14.

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Canadians will find 2013 shaping up as a pivotal year for voters in several provinces.

British Columbians, who give low marks to their current premier, have been looking forward to expressing themselves at the ballot box. They’ll get their chance on May 14.

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