2016: Thoughts on the Past Year
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It was a depressing year for some people across Canada and the world. A lot of factors probably accounted for it. Elections don’t bring out the best in some people. The economy remains mixed. War mars several areas of the world and refugees suffer for it.

A number of beloved artists in literature, film and television have passed away. Many people have had personal family, work and other challenges this year that have left not at their best.

A recent poll asked Canadians how they felt about 2016 and the only place that had signs of positive belief was in Manitoba. So what would account for a annus mirabilis versus a annus horibillis? The poll didn’t drill down into why Manitoba polled differently. Did Manitoba suddenly have a soaring economy? No.

Did Manitoba have the best year ever for weather? No. We did have a good year in arts and sport. It was another solid year of festivals. But did this all contribute to us being more positive about things than others?

No one can really know all the factors of each individual person in the province. For some who lost a loved one, it could have been a truly terrible year. Lost a job, relationship problems, health issues can all have an affect.

In general though, let’s speculate on why Manitoba might be feeling a little better about 2016 and positive about 2017.

  1. Economic Growth. The province has seen growth that is tangible in that people are seeing construction, new businesses open and more people working and seeing paychecks. RBC confirms they expect Manitoba to take lead on GDP growth in Canada.
  2. Population Growth. October to this past October was highest growth in Canada for population. People can see it in the streets. It’s busy and busy attracts people.
  3. Cultural Strength. Most festivals continue to show resilience from JazzFest to Country Fest and from Folklorama to Folk Festival. The organizers, programming, volunteers and attendance made the province attractive for things to do almost every weekend. And let’s not forget theatre, ballet and dance.
  4. Sports. Jets didn’t make the play-offs but the draft produced one of those rare talents in Patrik Laine that excites everyone in the NHL. The Bombers did make the CFL play-offs and had a great final half of the season. We’ll be still debating that last field goal attempt for years to come. The Goldeyes won the American Association Baseball championship in a very exciting season! Our curlers always make us proud as well. Lastly, the amateur athletes at every level and age and sport find support and interest from an abundance of Manitobans.
  5. Politics. A new mayor of Winnipeg and a new premier of Manitoba took over the province and while there are inevitable criticisms, they remain relatively popular. An initial sense of renewal marks the the beginning of the mandate. It probably helped that there was no spring flooding or extreme forest fire season that would have represented major challenges to government. People seem patient within reason to let the leadership figure out a path in 2017. A new PM federally also seems to remain generally popular early into his mandate.
  6. Family. Every year families go through life, death and change but anecdotally, it seemed more people were doing it together and coming together. For decades Manitobans have spread themselves across the continent for opportunities and employment but a lot seem to have been attracted back because of family. It helps fuel much of Manitoba’s present optimism.

There are sore points to be sure. The Pas and Churchill had a horrible 2016. Glimmers of hope are there but it was a bad year. First Nations life remains the challenge of the province in terms of making concrete improvements. Deficits. The problems of service, spending and taxation never go away. Crime. Still too much of in Manitoba. Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol plague the province and the county in general. De-criminalizing marijuana is coming but Manitoba still has basic issues with alcohol abuse and with fetal alcohol exposure. It is not difficult to see how some of the bad issues appear to be has linked together as the good issues.

What Manitoba does not appear to be is anxious or overly upset the way other jurisdictions are. That could change but for now 2016 was not bad and 2017 would look to okay so far to denizens of the province.

Happy New Year!

This has been an editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations