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In 2023, Volodymyr Zelenskyy will enter a new battlefield: the culture war

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2023. You would think, after last year, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


Ukraine will become a wedge issue

By L. Graeme Smith

In 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will enter a new battlefield, one fought with memes and politics instead of missiles and people: the culture war. 

Zelenskyy’s steadfast and genuinely courageous leadership in the face of unwarranted and seemingly overwhelming aggression from his Russian neighbour vaulted Zelenskyy into overnight status as liberalism’s most impressive living standard bearer. His resolve, clad in military green and positioned in the thick of conflict, was mythic in proportion (even if, like all myth, embellishment is part of the package) and captured the hearts and the imaginations of those in the free world horrified by totalitarian oppression and its insatiable appetite. 

Ukraine’s refusal to back down, roll over, and die, its dogged defence of its own right to peaceful existence, put the lie in many ways to the narrative that the West was irredeemably weak, that it was destined to limp falteringly into decadence and irreversible decline. The people of Ukraine rallied behind their leader, with the support of the democratic world they fought and improbably continue to fight the invaders, and Zelenskyy became a hero

And what do we do with heroes? 

It should not be surprising that, dramatic though it will continue to be, the horrors of the Ukrainian war will not be able sustain the world’s attention and compassion compared to the all-consuming culture war, in all its fresh hell. And by us, I mean most prominently a polarized America, whose internecine squabbles shake and reverberate abroad to unsettle the rest of us in turn. Already, Zelenskyy and his struggle has increasingly become a wedge issue within American political discourse, merely another weapon at hand to criticize and cripple the other side. For whatever the merits of the Ukrainian mission, the worthiness of the cause, the justice that is being fought for, there will be a rising cohort—mostly from the Right, though not exclusively—consumed with cutting him down

Not that there will not be ammunition. Prepare for unsavoury stories of corruption (and more), undoubtedly some true and some propagandized, to come ever more to the fore as Ukrainian pleas for support continue into a second year of long, bloody war and the rest of the world’s goodwill, patience, and interest in their cause begins to be exhausted. 

Domestic political actors will take advantage for their own gain and attacks on Zelenskyy the myth will begin as fiercely as the attacks on Zelenskyy the man and Ukraine the country are being waged now.


The CAF will continue to teeter on the brink of collapse

By Richard Shimooka

2023 for the defence file in Canada will likely see the consequences of decisions made in 2022.

In the last year, the government has signalled significant shifts in Canadian defence policy—a renewal of Arctic capabilities announced in the summer, as well as a new Indo-Pacific strategy, both of which seek a much more robust role for the military in defending Canada and its interests. These strands will likely come together in the publication of a new defence policy update expected early in the year, but their tangible outcomes may emerge even sooner than expected.

It seems to be a newfound impetus to push through spending that will accelerate the renewal of the armed forces, and reinforce these shifts. That might include the acquisition of big-ticket capabilities such as the Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft.

Unfortunately, these major policy moves will barely mask the reality of the CAF—an organization teetering on the brink of collapse. The after-effects of COVID, the sexual misconduct crisis, and attempts to reform military culture (among many other issues) all continue to affect the organization. It has contributed to dangerously low retention and recruitment rates that have affected its ability to generate units for deployment.

The Chief of the Defence Staff’s reconstitution order is the most tangible evidence of the military’s state, with the CAF essentially retrenching to a narrow set of core missions. Last week it was revealed that the RCAF would not provide a rotation of CF-18s to the NATO-enhanced air policing mission to Europe after doing so for nearly a decade. The reality is that this will likely be the last major overseas deployment for the next decade, as Canada has insufficient personnel and airframes to undertake anything but its core continental air defence mission. This story will be repeated across the military over the coming years.

Fixing the CAF will take a decade or more of intensive work, which includes limiting foreign deployments in order to not overstretch the military’s very limited capability. The question is whether the government will have the discipline to stick to this plan. Canada seemingly has been able to resist the pressure to deploy a force to stabilize Haiti, but other crises will almost certainly emerge. If Ottawa fails, then it may upset the delicate balance, and lead headlong into a total collapse.

This crypto winter is going to become an ice age in 2023

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2023. You would think, after last year, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


Elon Musk will run for president and the housing market is in for some pain

By Rudyard Griffiths

1. After a quick amendment to the Constitution, Elon Musk will announce that he is running as an independent for the U.S. presidency, shocking the American political establishment with strong poll numbers, grassroots organization, and his own multibillion PAC.

2. Bitcoin will trade under $5,000 USD as the current crypto winter becomes an ice age.

3. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will step down early in the year as leader of the Liberal Party paving the way for an impressive outsider campaign by Mark Carney that will see him vanquish all comers as the economy sours.

4. The Canadian housing market will experience its worse correction since the 1990s as the Bank of Canada’s interest rates work their way through the economy, pushing the country into recession.

5. It will start to dawn on all of us in 2023 that we are on the cusp of an incredible age of abundance powered by machine learning, mNRA vaccines for cancer, early successes with hydrogen fusion, genetic engineering, and personalized medicine.


Raquel Dancho will be next year’s breakout political star

By Rahim Mohamed

One of the oddest things about getting older is seeing people who are younger than you surpass you. So it is with a tinge of envy that I predict that Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho—nearly four years my junior—will be next year’s breakout political star.

Dancho, member of parliament for the suburban Winnipeg riding of Kildonan—St. Paul, has flourished as a member of Pierre Poilievre’s shadow cabinet, notably holding Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s feet to the fire for misleading Canadians about the range of firearms banned under Bill C-21. (Dancho was recently ejected from the House for calling Mendicino a liar).

Dancho, a dynamic, bilingual speaker with impeccable conservative credentials will be the face of the Conservative Party’s prairie team, stepping into the shoes of long-serving Portage—Lisgar MP and ex-party leader Candice Bergen. Dancho will also be central to the party’s efforts to paint the Trudeau government as “soft on crime” and make public safety a major ballot issue heading into the next federal election.

Dancho may well go on to become Canada’s first prime minister born in the 1990s, but that’s a year-end prediction for a few Decembers from now.