Retiring the crystal ball

Getting out of the prediction business

Last January, I imagined the editor’s message I’d write at the end 2021. 

“Congratulations to us!” I envisioned. “We beat COVID! Life is back to normal! Now let’s focus this same pandemic-inspired spirit of cooperation on overcoming the climate crisis, systemic racism, and income inequality. We need to make sure the Liberal government turns its focus to these issues over the coming year.” 

It was a simpler time.

I didn’t imagine a world where a noisy minority of otherwise intelligent, educated people would become passionately mistrustful of science. Of course there would be selfish people who don’t see the need to mask or follow health rules, but surely it would be apparent to everyone that vaccination is the way to beat a plague?

I knew that Stephen McNeil might eventually retire, but based on the polls, I assumed some sort of McNeil Lite replacement would keep the Liberals safely clinging to power for at least another term or two.

Yet here we are, still up to our hips in COVID, and with a government only the most diehard Tories imagined possible a year ago. Further defying prognostication, recently elected premier Tim Houston is revealing himself to be surprisingly progressive in some ways. (Unkind comments about minium-wage workers aside. These things are relative; at least he seems to make decisions based on science and facts, which makes him unusual compared to, say, Conservative contemporaries Jason Kenney and Doug Ford).

I suspect historians will someday write about 2021 as a “lost” year, a time spent chasing our COVID tail, instead of progressing to new challenges and building our post-pandemic lives. Yet despite that appearance, change keeps brewing.

In our cover story, Houston says he is confident that at some point in 2022, the pandemic will be behind us, COVID just another manageable, scary-but-rare, illness like measles or Legionnaire’s disease. Unless everything the epidemiologists know is wrong (which is vanishingly unlikely), Houston is bound to be right.

Life as we remember it is gone. We’ll emerge into something different, a world of periodic outbreaks, vaccine passports, and strange new complications we haven’t imagined yet.

But this also gives us the opportunity to leave behind our old challenges. In this issue of Unravel Halifax, writer Janet Whitman looks at the issues that are going to shape our city in 2022: the housing crisis, the growing wealth gap, climate change, and mental health.

She talks with the people living with those issues every day. Based on their revelations and concerns, we quizzed the premier about his priorities for the coming year. Read Ameeta Vohra’s interview with him about Nova Scotia’s journey and where we’re going next

No more predictions — just a roadmap. 

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