A Few Thoughts on 2021

Last year I did a post on 10 things to watch in 2020, I figured I would repeat that post for 2021. The following are tenish stories I am watching going into next year.

  1. COVID-19
  • It will take all of 2021 get our community vaccinated. There are also a ton of unknowns on this front (some I outlined in the Week 41 post) but given the pace of vaccine deployment in Ontario to think that things will be back to “normal” by summer is a little naive in my opinion.
  • Certainly lockdown restrictions will be loosened by spring (we hope) but flare ups and outbreaks in workplaces, schools etc. will still occur. Masks in public and indoors probably won’t go away next year and travel restrictions will likely remain in place to a degree even if border opens.
    • Reopening will also be a friction point where predictions of a “roaring 20s” of depravity and partying will clash against economic and social realities. There is certainly pent up energy/demand for stuff that could clash with restrictions.
    • The end of COVID like many crises, will also gloss over some of the cracks in society. Whether frontline and essential worker pay, living conditions in the LTC, the role of migrant workers in our society, the inequality of impacts of the the disease. With the pandemic related issues going away, normal means, ignoring these issues.
  • The pace of loosening restrictions will be interesting, even if travel is possible, it doesn’t mean that insurance companies or employers will make it easy or will enable travel during 2021. It is quite possible that one family member gets vaccinated due to their employment, but other family members won’t.
    • This leads to it’s own set of questions: If you get sick during your trip, will you get coverage? Will employers require the vaccine? If you need to miss work due to COVID, is that an acceptable absence? Will the Health Units enforce this vaccine on students like other school age vaccinations?
  • The other thing to consider is how COVID seems to be mutating as viruses regularly do, resulting in a more seasonal variation and the need for annualized vaccination.

2. 2021 Census

  • Next Spring, Statistics Canada will undertake the 2021 Census. This census has me a bit torn because it will give us a COVID snapshot on where we are as we start to recover from pandemic. That also means that is Census will be somewhat of an outlier, particularly in certain socio-economic data.
  • This Census will give us insights on the depth and damaged caused by COVID but because of that status it’s data could quickly become misaligned with community conditions depending on how broad the recovery is.
    • Saying “well that was during COVID” could be a retort in 2024 to research and data that someone doesn’t like based on this census. Just as the poverty numbers from 2016 we dismissed, as being dated information in 2019.
      • Fundamentally narratives like this miss the mark, as Essex County competes in a global economy for talent and opportunities. Starting a step (or five) behind other communities due to high poverty rates makes that competition that much more difficult. Accelerated growth since then does not mean you have solved the problem or surpassed other communities. Not tackling these social issues make challenges of economic diversification and growth, that much harder.
      • Census showing greater COVID impacts based on socio-economic metrics puts the region in a worse position for the eventual recovery.
  • The Census will bring a new measure of poverty for our community, the Market Basket Measure (MBM), which was set as the official poverty line by the Federal Government. The MBM is a good measure but not without flaws, biggest of which are that you can’t easily compare communities to one another.
    • The Low Income Measure will still be the metric of measuring poverty across the country as it is standardized but local debate around what number is more accurate will likely emerge as the Market Basket Measure, has a lower threshold in some cases, meaning the topline poverty rate won’t be as big of an issue.
  • As for new/updated questions the 2021 Census will feature some of the following:
    • Questions around gender at birth and identified gender have been added with a non-binary response included.
    • A question of the quality of employment to help shed light on why some people only work part of a year or mostly part time.
      • Inferences from this data could shed light on childcare or gender specific challenges facing individuals securing full time employment.
    • For commuting for work a question has been added for people who take multiple forms of transport to get to work. Think of someone in the GTA who drives to GO station, takes train, then subway, then walks.
    • They added a question on military veteran status. This was data that was not collected previously and can be used to target veteran support programs more effectively.
  • The above being said, data gaps still exist – no information on broader LGBTQ+ identification, Disabilities, Food Security which are glaring gaps in Canada’s data infrastructure.
  • If you are looking for work this spring, Statistics Canada is currently hiring.

3. City of Windsor Budget

  • 2021 is the last “governing” year and budget of this council term. The 2022 budget will be an election budget, but this will lay the foundation. The tension between holding the line on taxes, and potentially investing in COVID recovery will likely be on full display.
    • The City has received millions in safe-restart funding to support transit, social services and other operations, with the final budget hole, if there is one, currently unknown.
      • The question of debt may also likely come up.
    • Obviously with COVID bleeding over into 2021, budget impacts will continue.
      • Closed facilities and redeployed staff, higher cleaning costs, etc. as well as loss of revenue from the Casino, Airport, Tunnel etc. will continue into the next fiscal year.
      • Another thing I am watching are the reported budgets of WEEDC and TWEPI.
        • TWEPI for example is funded by a 4% accommodation tax, which likely hasn’t generated any money this year.
  • The capital budget is already largely locked in. This budget should grow to 10 year plan this year meaning we will see projects placeholders into the 2030s.
    • The failure of to secure federal grants for city projects will mean that it is possible that taxpayers will be on hook to move these projects forward?
    • It will be interesting to see based on last years’ accepted capital budget if any projects move up or down in priority as this will likely be the last year to deliver completed capital projects before the election.
  • Does the Transit Master Plan move forward in the post-COVID environment as transit ridership hasn’t recovered. The plan is 8-year road map that will require significant investment year after year but if ridership isn’t there to support the investment and usage in the short term, is a deferral in the cards to not “overburden taxpayers”.
  • Another question is what is happening with the Windsor Police Budget this year? Will the public actually get to see what they are paying for?
  • Then there is affordable housing, lots of fanfare for the new Meadowbrook build, but what is next? We saw in 2020, when cost overruns seem to pause project, everything ground a halt until additional funding from upper levels of government was released. The unwillingness to locally cover costs is telling in my mind.
  • In case you are wondering, yes you can expect a budget breakdown once the documents drop in the new year.

4. Federal Election in 2021?

  • All signs point towards a spring federal election in my opinion. The fall economic statement, was a tee up for the budget in the spring that will likely produce one of the largest deficits in Canadian history.
    • It will be used to likely a number of policies that the liberals have already hinted at: the Canada’s Climate Change plan (includes carbon tax changes from a few weeks ago); possibly national Long Term Care standards as a condition of new/additional provincial funding; insights into the national childcare secretariat’s activities and a potential pan-Canadian plan (like national standards that provinces would need to meet to get money); potential taxes on Internet companies.
    • I would assume that the opposition parties won’t form some sort of coalition to try and govern themselves if they bring the government down.
  • The Liberal party is finding and nominating candidates across the country. I haven’t seen any other parties nominating but I may have missed it.
    • To my knowledge candidates haven’t been identified to challenge any of the incumbents locally. I would assume given the minority parliament status that many of the unsuccessful candidates from 2018 will run again.
      • I could certainly see Cheryl Hardcastle and Tracey Ramsey running again after their narrow defeats. Maybe Sandra Pupatello runs again in Windsor West?

5. Provincial Budget

  • In March or April the Provincial budget will likely be released. It will be the second last budget prior to the provincial election as well as a budget that will be responsible for significant heavy lifting on the COVID recovery.
    • This budget will also start laying the ground work for the priorities for how the government will bring the provinces’ finances back to some semblance of balance, should they desire. What the government cuts or where the generate revenue will be an important part of that. I wouldn’t expect significant cuts in this budget, but where money goes now, will likely be the areas that are protected when the knives come out.
    • Obviously LTC funding will be something to watch for as will broader healthcare funding. It will be interesting to see how the Ontario Health Teams and Health Units show up in the budget.
  • Locally people will be watching for the hospital funding and whether or not it moves forward in Stage 2.
    • It is also possible that by the time the budget drops the RFQ for the HWY 3 construction will be completed and moving forward.
    • It will also should be an opportunity for additional funding for local projects and other infrastructure.
      • Both the City of Windsor and County municipalities all have outstanding infrastructure funding requests currently with the province.
      • Both school boards have extended build lists for new constructions and renovations.

6. 2022 Provincial/Municipal Elections

  • Scheduled for June 2, 2022 and October 23, 2022 respectively. 2021 will be spent laying the groundwork for these various campaigns. The aforementioned budgets will play a big role in shaping the elections at the local level.
  • Provincially, if the hospital is funded or if the region gets additional funding for other projects etc. it will likely be accompanied by a provincial announcement, media conference etc. If the region is as in play as the PC seem to be implying I would expect a decent footprint of cabinet ministers etc. in the region over 2021.
  • The rumour that Percy Hatfield NDP MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh may be retiring opening up a seat is floating around. The PCs have a candidate but not the Liberals, Councilor Gill was previously ran for that seat in 2013 and has been active in the party but I doubt he would jump from Council just to run now.
  • No one has declared in Windsor West to challenge Lisa Gretzky NDP MPP. 2021 will likely see the Liberal and remaining Conservative candidate being nominated.
  • Municipally the question/perception of who is and isn’t running will likely shape 2021. As COVID hopefully peters out, a return to normal we could see some additional coverage of council comings and goings around the Council table.
    • I would expect to see a couple open seats on Windsor City Council as Councilor Sleiman and Gignac may or may not run again given their age and in the case of Councilor Sleiman, recent health issues. I can’t see any of the “new” councilors dropping out, and that leaves, Councilor Francis, Bortolin and Holt, all of whom could easily run and win re-election if that is there desire.
    • Obviously incumbency matters a lot, so I don’t know if there any of the other councilors will really face significant challenges. I am not aware of any of them facing the displeasure that greeted some incumbents last term.
      • That being said, due to COVID, they have faced less scrutiny and certainly less coverage from the media. Even the lack of public gatherings has created an “ignorance is bliss” state for the community as they haven’t seen or heard from Councilors as often as they would normally.
      • If there is an incumbent who is weak, it is possibly Councilor Gill. Despite his victory in the by-election, making the Mayor’s top ten list, a consolidated field in a general election could see a more rigorous challenge.
        • Speaking of the by-election we will also likely see some of those candidates pop up again in 2022 so it will be interesting to see if any of the those former candidates make headlines in 2021.
    • Out in the County, I have heard rumours that this could be both Mayor Bain and McNamera’s last terms before retirement.
      • With Andrew Dowie also running provincially, it could mean a number of openings in Tecumseh if he is successful.
      • I think the Town of Essex election could also be interesting as there has been some tension around that council table and of course, the lingering election irregularities that have the mayor in Court.

7. Biden’s 100 Days

  • The most productive portion of any president’s term is the first hundred days. By the end of the 2021, it is time for people to get ready for Congressional mid-terms with state primaries beginning in early 2022 for congressional (as well as state and governor) elections.
    • The outcome Georgia senate runoffs will shape the term dramatically. Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has already been discussing how slow and block various Biden Administration initiatives and even Cabinet/Judicial picks.
    • Even in a 50-50 Senate with VP Harris as the tie breaker, the ability to pass legislation will be difficult at best. The paralysis of Washington won’t go anywhere and this administration will likely not make anyone happy as it won’t be able to move as far as some hope on key issues.
  • Where Biden can move is rolling back various Trump executive orders on immigration, climate etc. but without congressional support, those measures could all be reinstated by a future president.
  • My expectations are low for the first 100 days of Biden. It will be normal which will be good, but I don’t expect much healing from the US.
    • Will Medicare For All pass in 100 days, no. Will significant climate legislation including carbon taxes and fundamental regulation pass, most likely not. Will major criminal justice reform occur or gun control, no. Major reform to Wall St., nope. Will decriminalization of pot, probably not.

8. Local Environment and Climate Change

  • Obviously lake levels, shoreline flooding and other flooding events will likely still be a issue for the region.
    • It will be interesting to see if the changes to the Conversation Authorities do have any impact in 2021 locally. Will development in parts of our region pick up additional steam?
  • The County of Essex is planning a community energy conservation plan so it will be interesting to see how that is deployed.
  • There is also the planning for the wildlife corridor over Ojibway Parkway that doesn’t quite make it all the way.
  • Some interesting discussions will also likely occur around regional organic waste collection as the City of Windsor will be required to implement by 2022 when a ban on food waste trash collection begins.
  • Should the Federal Liberal government pass their budget or get re-elected following a spring election. A number of climate initiatives will begin next year everything from tree planting, to home renovations to rebates to buy EV vehicles will become available.

9. Housing

  • The big housing question in 2021 is, of all of the announcements of new projects in 2020, particularly in downtown Windsor, how many of them actually move forward and get shovels in the ground?
    • Beyond Windsor if you are wondering how housing starts went for 2020, he is your Jan-Nov totals for the members of the CMA. Decembers numbers are available mid-January.
CMHC
  • What you can takeaway is that the rest of the CMA did out build Windsor in most of 2020 and not just in single family homes. As I have stated on this blog, many of the surrounding municipalities are actually more dense (controlling for built up areas) than Windsor and due to their small size, amenities are more impactful.
    • They are also diversifying their housing stock, the assumption that downtown Windsor will be the only place to get dense, walkable living could be challenged pretty quickly.
  • I have become increasingly convinced that Windsor’s housing market is broken and quickly become detached from broader economic fundamentals of our region. Although that is good for investors, developers and relators, and existing homeowners; it certainly isn’t good for the everyone in Windsor (and more broadly Essex County).
  • Although the CIPs have been widely successful in attracting projects, I do wonder about the medium term fiscal impact and potential challenges as there will be a decade gaps between when the project is complete and when the City gets to collect the forgone tax revenue.
    • In reality it could be the mid-2030s before the city has access to additional revenue from these developments. The question becomes how does the city bridge a “repopulated” downtown, when there is no new money to support amenities and municipal investments given the existing political dynamics.
    • The expansion of CIP onto Wyandotte and University Ave. will also likely spur additional construction on those corridors.
  • The other question is what about housing affordability. Incomes have not kept up with rising prices – whether housing prices but also things like food etc. According to CMHC rents in Windsor between 2018 and 2019 went up 6%, in the downtown core they went up almost 10%. Simply injecting more supply over the medium term is not going to solve these rental pressures as population is not constant, it is basic economics.

10. Racism and Reconciliation

  • This past summer we saw marches in Windsor, a number of conversations about racism and policing in our community, taskforces were launched, and many of the right things were said. The question was and remains, then what – 2021 will be where the rubber hits the road.
    • Obviously the City budget will show if there is some additional transparency in the Police Budget.
    • Statistics Canada is for the first time collecting data on the diversity and make up of Boards of Directors of NFP and charities.
    • If there is going to be a concerted effort to get persons of colour or additional diversity on to elected councils in our region, the groundwork for that effort will need to be laid in 2021.
  • Caldwell First Nations received land to establish a reserve just outside of Leamington. Despite the tumultuous leadership situation, hopefully 2021 brings more good news to this community.
    • More broadly, whether there is movement on reconciliation or nation remains to be scene. There are still dozens of first nations communities in Canada with drinking water advisories.
  • No matter how you look at, there is lots of work to be done.

11. Further Afield

  • Looking internationally there are a few important things to keep an eye on.
    • Do International students return to colleges/universities?
      • Obviously travel and border restrictions will keep some students away. Once they come back, will the growth in international students that has occurred in the previous years return? As they are a major revenue source for post-secondary institutions.
      • There is some talk that certain classes may remain online (or as an option). There is some concern that students may transfer to other institution as in an online it doesn’t matter where you are physically.
    • Following Brexit going into place, and a continuation agreement being signed between Canada and the UK what does that Canada-UK relationship look like?
      • It is somewhat ironic that this continuation agreement keeps in place the Canada-EU Trade agreement standards with some additional tariff reductions by 2024.
      • Locally it will be interesting to see if WEEDC pursue UK companies, as there is no agreement between the UK and US that I am aware of, so they could use Windsor as a backdoor to US markets.

You’ve fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this; never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line! Aha ha ha ha… (and then keels over, dead.)

The Princess Bride
  • Well there are several land wars happening in Asia. North Korea always challenges a new president with missiles or nuclear tests and China and the US relationship isn’t exactly great either.

I hope every has a safe and Happy New Year!

Izzy and my plans for NYE

One thought on “A Few Thoughts on 2021

  1. Pingback: A Few Thoughts on Week 42 | gingerpolitics

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