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Predicting prosperity for 2013

Wingham Advance-Times editorial

The fact you are reading this is proof we survived the Mayan apocalypse – no surprise to the modern-day Mayans, apparently, although it must be somewhat of a disappointment to the weird folks gathered on that mountain in France. Our year 2012 has passed into history, and we have embarked on a new 12-month journey through 2013. We wonder what it will bring.

Hollywood’s psychics to the stars are sure to have answers. Someone will predict a fabulously wealthy and beautiful celebrity will have triplets, there will be an assassination attempt on a major political figure, and a famous person will make a shocking announcement.

These are fairly safe predictions. If a star produces twins (and the statistical chances for this happening are not bad, considering the Hollywood baby boom, especially among older actors into their third or fourth marriages) the psychic can still gloat – so what if the number was out by one.

Regarding the assassination attempt, the world is not a peaceful place. Such an event is, sadly, almost inevitable, and the wording covers both close calls and murders. A celebrity announcement that will shock us all? Famous people will do some mighty peculiar things to keep their names in the headlines.

Of course, the fact the Mayan apocalypse passed without incident will not prevent other predictions about the end of the world. Such a prediction is tempting – after all, it stands a 50-50 chance of being right. Either the world ends or it continues. And it gets attention, especially if the person foretelling doom is wild-eyed and rich enough to buy television time and full-page ads.

Most celebrity predictions have little value except for entertainment. The kind of predictions that would have meaning for us in this part of the world are considerably less dramatic.

We would like someone predict an end to the dispute between teachers and government while both still have some credibility. They debate lofty issues of balancing the province’s books and the sanctity of collective bargaining, forgetting there are parents trying to hold onto minimum wage jobs while desperately scrambling to find day care, and kids who wonder why they are being punished by having their extracurricular activities cancelled.

There are not two players in this dispute, there are four. Sooner or later, the two that have been ignored – parents and students – are going to find their voices. And both the major players will discover what all those taxpayers and voters (and future taxpayers and voters) have been thinking.

A prediction of lower taxes would be wonderful, but we would settle for a prediction our tax money will be spent wisely this year. Most of us understand the need for taxes. What we do not understand is public officials wasting hundreds of thousands of our dollars. This is not only a reference to such fiascos as eHealth, but to smaller abuses – awarding contracts large or small without going through the proper processes, hiring consultants and failing to monitor their costs, expensing a $16 glass of orange juice. The list goes on and involves every level of government.

We want someone to predict an economic upturn. We are fed up with downturns being predicted, and realize these can be self-fulfilling. We get warned we are heading towards a financial cliff, and our immediate reaction is to stash our money under the mattress (sometimes literally), stop taking chances and regard with suspicion any signs things are improving. What we want is for people to start new businesses, expand existing ones, hire more staff, and invest in our communities.

That needs a hefty influx of economic optimism – not the same thing as being foolhardy, just positive.

Related would be a prediction this part of Ontario is poised to become the driving force behind an economic upswing for the entire nation, in part thanks to our highly skilled, well-educated and enthusiastic workforce. This one could actually happen, since we do indeed have a lot of skilled people whose strong work ethic and creativity could be real winners in an economy that values both. By all appearances, tomorrow’s economy is heading in that direction. We have to make sure we are prepared to take full advantage.

Making predictions is not an exact science, no matter what the Hollywood psychics to the stars would have us believe. There is a certain element of luck, but usually predictions of economic success have more to do with hard work, careful planning and determination. We can handle that.

Here’s to a prosperous 2013, and here’s to the effort it will take to make it so. On with the year!

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