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Jeffrey Simpson (Brigitte Bouvier For The Globe and Mail)

Jeffrey Simpson

(Brigitte Bouvier For The Globe and Mail)


To err is human (check that, please) Add to ...

One supposes there is certain merit in having been around for a while – but there are traps, too.

One trap is the idea that one has seen it all before, ergo the present will turn out much like the past. So, when the Senate spending scandal broke, it was dismissed here as “the stuff of Peace Tower politics,” an affair of “prurient interest” to those within sight of the tower but “of very little interest to the citizenry.” The scandal was like “Tunagate” and “Shawinigate.” And “where are they now?”

It turned out, of course, that the Senate scandal was a big deal, way beyond Peace Tower politics. Surveys revealed a high degree of interest among the general public, most of it to the political detriment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Even the party faithful were at a loss to explain how this could have happened. They knew, as a supposedly experienced columnist was slow to understand, that this baby had legs.

Another trap is making the wish be father to the thought. And so, it was predicted several times here that the Alberta government would raise its intensity-based tax on greenhouse gas emissions. It did not. Nor, despite predictions here, did Mr. Harper’s government publish regulations on GHG emissions for the oil and gas industry. (A July 12 column said, “At some point this summer, federal regulations will likely be published for the industry.”) In fact, based on one year-end interview with Mr. Harper, we could now be looking at a couple of years. Both governments remain with their heads in the (bitumen) sands.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford did wake up after the B.C. election, negotiating an entente that might bring the two provinces together to get pipelines from Alberta to the Pacific, something a column earlier in the year had criticized her for not doing.

The most embarrassing gaffe of the year came on Oct. 19, when a column chastised the New Democratic Party for condemning the Canada-European Union free-trade and investment deal. It noted that the party had opposed every free-trade deal. Wrong. The NDP supported a little deal with Jordan, but the general point stood: The New Democrats did not and does not like free-trade agreements, although that might be changing.

Production timetables at this newspaper are such that in the time between the column being written and actually being published, the party had put out a much modified position saying it would await the text before taking a final position. The column therefore misrepresented the party’s position. Fortunately, the paper gave NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair a subsequent opportunity to outline his party’s position.

A column critical of Quebec’s values charter asked what would happen when Jews, Muslims or Sikhs were elected to the Legislative Assembly. Would they have to rid themselves of religious symbols? It turned out that the charter would exempt them. (That said, it remains a bad solution to a non-problem.)

Another column wondered about the utility of Supreme Court nominee Marc Nadon’s apparent knowledge of maritime law when such cases “might make it to the Supreme Court once in a quarter-century.” Legal scholars say such cases come along infrequently, but more often than that.

A column about the Conservatives’ poor showing in Brandon-Souris (they won the riding but their share of the popular vote plummeted) should have mentioned that some local Conservatives were unhappy about the nomination process. This might have been among the explanations for the party’s narrow win in a riding where, in the words of a famous Manitoba Conservative of yesteryear, “a yellow dog could have won that seat for us.”

On July 20, a column took note of Mr. Harper’s piano playing at the National Arts Centre, describing it as a “one-shot deal, never to be repeated.” Piano man performed again at the Negev Dinner in Toronto in early December.

Another column predicted the Conservative attack ads against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau would work, as they had against his two predecessors. They failed, at least in the short term, and were not repeated.

We can only hope these sorts of errors will not mar 2014. Alas, history suggests otherwise.

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