It that time of year again, folks! That time of year when lazy scribes get busy putting together their top stories of the year for their retrospective end-of-year piece. In this case, it’s the stories, people, laws, scandals, senatorial or otherwise (with the retirement of former Conservative Minister Vic “Vickie-Leaks” Toews, sex scandals are in short supply, sadly!), that made the corridors of power in O-Town buzz and the publicists, spin-doctors and high-paid hacks that now run our political system wring their proverbial hands with worry!

2013 is destined to be remembered for arguably the biggest crisis that the Harper government has experienced since it came to power back in ’06. Prior to revelations involving the expense fraud of Duff Man, the Brazman, Pammy “The Honourable Senator for Manhattan” Wallin and Mac “Seal hugger” Harb, Harper and his government had managed to avoid many of the fiscal and criminal scandals that recent federal governments invariably suffer during their mandate (i.e. Airbus, Sponsorship, etc.). Though, for those of us paying attention, there were others that set off alarm bells, including the In-Out election spending scheme of the 2006 and the robocall voter suppression scandal of the last elections, to mention a couple.

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But with the growing problem of an inexplicably absent Prime Minister at the heart of a major criminal investigation into the actions of his inner circle of advisors and hatchet men (i.e. Nigel Wright) by the men in red, Harper appears to be bearing the brunt of the public outrage over this mess. Make no mistake, the federal Tories and their previously Teflon leader are in way over their heads this time and will wear this one into the 2015 elections and possibly beyond.

In a related story, Tom Mulcair, the leader of the Federal NDP, established himself as the king of Question Period with his brilliant prosecutorial style and his blunt line of questioning on the connections between the Prime Minister’s Office and the cover-up of Senator Duffy’s illegal transaction with Nigel Wright. It has been noted by many a cynic in the media and elsewhere that such performances do not score many points with the general public who usually tune out the House of Commons.

It remains to be seen whether this will translate into greater support for the NDP in the next election. But, if nothing else, this has distinguished him very nicely from Justin Trudeau who has been lagging behind his main rival on challenging the government in the House, preferring to concentrate on the kind of retail politics outside the Ottawa bubble that are rapidly becoming his trademark.

Speaking of the current golden boy of Canadian politics (these things typically don’t last, if you don’t believe me look at the sorry state of Gerard Kennedy’s career), you’ve got to admit that Trudeau’s mojo has been growing ever since he crushed his opponents in the farcical Liberal leadership race back in April. He stumped for his candidates in recent by-elections and the results indicated that the Trudeau effect has helped the Liberals gain some inroads in Brandon-Souris (Manitoba) and retain their current number of seats by fending off strong campaigns by the NDP in Bourassa and Toronto-Centre (and then promptly rubbing their noses in it, in very classy fashion). If the current favourable polling trends continue, expect Trudeau Junior to go from strength to strength in the next couple of years, leading up to the general election in 2015.

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Remember the Bloc? The separatist party that dominated Quebec Federal politics since 1993. Well, in case you didn’t notice, they’re in a severe tailspin with zero hope of recovery at the moment. At the risk of dancing on the grave of the still barely alive political party, the death of the party in the next election (if not sooner) is now inevitable.

They lost Maria Mourani, one of a rump caucus that used to count  48 Members, over their decision to back Pauline Marois and the Quebec government’s ever controversial Quebec Values Charter. They registered a pitiful 13% of the vote in Bourassa, and just last week came the coup de grâce: their leader, Daniel Paillé, resigned suddenly for health reasons (not that many noticed), seemingly without any credible replacement lined up.

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No end of the year list would be complete without a nod to the Fordzilla fiasco in Toronto. The monster that is reportedly running amok in a crack and alcohol fueled rage at Nathan Phillips square downtown, is devouring everything in his path. He appears to be headed for Ottawa next, where he is expected to do even more damage to the Conservative spin-doctor frankensteins that helped unleash this twisted creature on and unsuspecting public in 2007 and defended him until it became apparent he was becoming a major political liability.

Here’s hoping that next year’s federal political stories, be they good, bad or ugly, keep us all half as enthralled, as this year’s did. Amen!

Justin Trudeau supports the legalization of marijuana. Not only that, he’s not afraid to admit that he’s smoked the odd joint himself. Unless Tom Mulcair and the NDP do something about it, it may just make him Prime Minister.

I don’t say this lightly or even enthusiastically, far from it. I’ve been an ardent NDP supporter for years and with my party poised to take power for the first time ever, to lose by being outflanked from the left by a right-leaning centrist with a good head of hair would be disastrous.

What’s worse is that as an MP, Trudeau both voted for Bill C-15 which imposed mandatory minimum sentences and smoked at least one joint. That hypocrisy will probably be forgotten or ignored by some voters, potheads aren’t known for their memory but they do turn up at the polls (Colorado and Washington, anyone).

While Trudeau may be a hypocrite, he’s a hypocrite who knows good electoral strategy when he sees it. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The only voters he’ll alienate are those in Harper’s Alberta base, people who will vote Conservative no matter what. He won’t lose the Ontario hockey moms who may have voted for Harper last time for economic reasons, in fact he may gain support from those who know their kids will probably experiment with the drug once or twice and don’t want to see them in jail for smoking a joint.

Meanwhile, supporting outright legalization will undoubtedly steal votes from the NDP in their former BC base and maybe even in their current stronghold of Quebec, if voters can get by the last name Trudeau. While a political battle between the love of ganja and hatred of the man who put tanks on the streets of Montreal being directed at his son may be interesting to watch, it doesn’t have to happen at all.

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During the NDP leadership campaign, a reporter asked Mulcair if he would legalize pot if Prime Minister and he said no (the party has since reaffirmed its commitment to decriminalization), they would need to run studies first. I strongly suggest that he quietly commissions whatever studies he feels are needed now so the next time someone asks him if he also supports legalization he can answer with an emphatic yes.

It will also be a much more honest yes than Trudeau could possibly give. If both leaders support pot legalization, then the one who did so after conducting the research he said he would do would seem like and be a much better choice than the guy who voted with Harper to harshly punish people who enjoyed what he enjoyed and only embraced legalization when it was clearly a good move electorally.

If the NDP want to remain the only alternative to Harper, then they need to at the very least match the Liberals on social issues. Surpassing them with progressive economics won’t be enough if they lose progressive ground on the next hot button social cause.

Canada is a centre-left country and has always been. A neo-con majority government is just good strategy by the Conservatives and not an indication of changing values.

It seems like the Mulcair and the NDP, closer to power than they ever have been before, may have forgotten that. I fear both removing socialism from the party’s constitution and Mulcair’s views on legalization both walk on the same cold feet.

I know that I’m probably more radical than your average voter but I can see how removing a word, even one that doesn’t carry the same negative connotations here as it does in the states, isn’t the end of the world. If the competition aren’t calling themselves socialist, then socialists who want to vote for a party that has a chance will still vote NDP, word or not. Standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to marijuana legalization, on the other hand, is inexcusable for a party that needs progressive support to win.

If the NDP acts swiftly and comes out with a pro-legalization stance backed by scientific research, then they will, forgive the pun, smoke out Trudeau’s hypocrisy.

Otherwise, pro-pot voters may get lost in the haze and make Trudeau PM.

* Top image by MontrealSimon.blogspot.ca

Tuesday night’s BC election was supposed to be an in-the-bag victory for the NDP. Instead, it turned into a cautionary tale of Canada’s altered political landscape.

Adrian Dix, BC New Democrat frontrunner, will perhaps go down in history as the suffocated canary who somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

According to Angus Reid, a forecast before the election showed New Democrats were the party of choice with 45% of decided voters and leaners. Liberals were in second with 36%. On Election Day, however, Liberals won 44.4% of the popular vote with the NDP trailing at 39.5%. This translated into Liberals winning 50 of BC’s 85 legislature seats ― an increase of five seats.

Unlike Quebec PQ premier Pauline Marois, Christie Clark’s supporters should not hail Clark as the Iron Lady of the West. Premier Clark failed to secure for herself a seat in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey. An MLA elected in a Liberal stronghold will likely surrender their seat so the party leader can run in a by-election.

Liberal Premier Christy Clark first sworn in by Clerk of the House E. George MacMinn as BC’s 35 Premier on March 14, 2011.

Postmortem assessment will likely uncover ‘leadership’ as the underlying cause of the BC NDP losses. BC’s election may have had more to do with Dix’s incompetence than Clark’s popularity.

Polls definitely showed that while federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s popularity rose, Clark’s popularity declined. Neither her nor Dix inspired province-wide confidence.

Indeed, Clark’s only saving grace was her ability to stay on message as the only viable candidate to stabilize BC’s economic sector and create jobs. BC Conservative leader John Cummins, shared similar policies with Clark but ultimately, his skepticism about global warming proved incompatible with BC voters.

An effective strategy for Dix would have been to prime Northern Gateway and frame it as a political clash between BC’s populous left against its irreconcilable right. Dix did no service to the party by clouding his position on Northern Gateway with qualifiers while Clark had indicated willingness to do business with Alberta if the price was right. An uncoordinated effort to attack the right in cooperation with the Greens also proved devastating.

What happened  should give NDP brass in Ottawa pause. Party leader Tom Mulcair, who had openly campaigned for Dix and saw this election as a potential warm-up for the next federal campaign, has already pledged to apply the lessons learned here in 2015.

This result was also bad for Dix’s campaign manager Brian Topp, also Jack Layton’s former chief strategist, a member of the NDP old guard and last year’s federal NDP runner-up to Mulcair. Topp’s miscalculation shows signs that the Orange Wave is regressing. Its effect could prove fatal to the federal campaign.

mulcairBC’s election represents the largest NDP experiment since the 2013 Montreal convention rejected creating a provincial party in Quebec. It may soon be the NDP’s Spanish Civil War before World War II.

Clark’s negative attacks on Dix and Dix’s unwillingness to be nasty in return, shirking away from confrontation at the televised debate, proved lethal.

Is the negative attack strategy no longer just a Harper hallmark, but a matter of political survival? Canadian politics may have not only shifted further into negative campaigning, but proved it is here to stay.

New Democrats may have to commit sacrilege against their fallen hero whose dying breath was of love being better than anger and optimism being better than despair if they want to win in 2015.