Yeah, yeah, I know. It was a terrible year. One of the worst in recent memory. But the rule for anyone who writes a weekly blog or column is that you must write some sort of year-end recap. So, with apologies, here we go.
Newsmaker of the Year
Is there any doubt about this? Donald Trump, a pumpkin-tinted compulsive liar and frequent bankrupt, won the presidency of the United States, riding a deep seated hatred and distrust for government. Nobody saw this coming, even Trump, who looked on election night like a guy whose enormous practical joke backfired on him. Never in American history – and rarely in world history – has anyone so spectacularly wrong for the job been elected. With control of the House and the Senate, the only thing that can stop Trump is the emergence of Republicans with steel in their spines who stand up the this thug. Since such a person does not exist, we’re in for a wild couple of years. (I say couple of years because I believe Trump will be impeached, or quit, well before his term is up.) By this time next year, Americans will be pining for the days of Barack Obama … or even George W. Bush. Anybody but this terrifying clown.
Canadian Newsmaker of the Year
The Canadian Press has named ailing Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie as its newsmaker of the year. No disrespect to Gord, but there’s no question in my mind that the real Canadian newsmaker of the year is Justin Trudeau. The PM elbowed his way (Get it? Remember ‘Elbowgate’? No?) into the headlines by leading the most activist government in generations. His government introduced an assisted dying law, began the process of legalizing pot, approved two pipelines and was photographed shirtless more of than Vladamir Putin. His government also botched, in spectacular fashion, the changes to our electoral system, and refused to apologize for his party’s shameless fundraising technique of promising access to cabinet ministers in return for donations to the party. That’s old-school politics for a new age, feel good politician.
Canadian news story of the year
The Fort McMurray wildfire was one of the most shocking, gripping and ultimately inspiring stories in recent Canadian history. Thousands of buildings gone, billions of dollars up in flames, lives turned upside down … and yet, somehow, and almost good news story. The evacuation was orderly in an almost cliched Canadian way, with only one fatality. Herculean efforts went into putting the fire out, and Canadians donated millions of dollars and tons of goods to help out. Disaster, yes. But also an example of Canadian humanity at its best.
It was a good year for the Grim Reaper
The Grim Reaper had one of his busiest years ever, swinging his scythe through the celebrity world with the vigour of a much younger man. I don’t know if there has ever been a year with such an impressive roll call of the dead. This year, we lost Muhammad Ali, Prince, David Bowie, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, Fidel Castro, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Nancy Reagan, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson, Doris Roberts, Alan Thicke, Harper Lee, John Glenn, Patty Duke, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Glen Frey, Morley Safer, George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Garry Marshall, Abe Vigoda, Ron Glass, Robert Vaughn, W.P. Kinsella, and, just this week, George Michael, followed by Carrie Fisher and then her mother, film legend Debbie Reynolds. OK, death … take 2017 off. You need some rest.
And finally, let’s end this year with something absurd
The city of Quebec produced a guide for immigrants to their historic town. Nice gesture, right? Well, read on.
More than 550 Syrian refugees have settled into Quebec City, and the town produced a guide to help them in the transition. In the guide – and I am NOT making this up – they told the newcomers the following …
With a drawing of a dark-haired, bearded man, the guide advises people to brush their teeth twice a day, “with a toothbrush and toothpaste”; hand washing is a must, “especially after going to the bathroom”; socks and underwear should be washed after each use, and when washing your body “pay particular attention to underarms, feet and intimate parts”; use a kitchen vent to reduce household cooking odors, or, in the event of “bad odors”, open a window. And finally – and this is my favourite – the document helpfully told the newcomers that incest is a crime. Here’s how they did it: “For example: Brother + sister=illegal, Parents + child= illegal”.
Again, I am not making this up.
Richard Adams, 96, author of the once hugely popular novel Watership Down … and finally to end the year of death, goodbye to actor William Christopher, 84, who played Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H. Goodbye, and amen.