What challenges lie ahead for us in the new year?

Two thousand and 10. Twenty-10. Two-o-10. Whatever you call it, that was quite a year wasn’t it?

There probably isn’t a politician in the country who isn’t glad to see the calendar flipped over to reveal a new year replete with new possibilities and new promises to bend.

The year that was left dozens of Alberta’s municipal politicians reeling in the wake of change. Rimbey was a leader in calling for change and following through on it, replacing everyone around the council table. Thank you to everyone who served their community on council in 2010.

This council has a helluva challenge in 2011; everyone has a different set of expectations about what this council needs to achieve in its thousand days in office. To begin with, most will accept more information and more transparency in council decisions and administration’s management, and they want to see council’s remuneration and expenses reined in.

Is anyone still talking about an ethanol plant?

In Ottawa, federal politicians are still piecing the country’s finances back together after breaking the bank to stimulate the economy with municipal works projects and automaker bailouts. It was only mildly surprising that we didn’t have a federal election in 2010 but why force an election you can’t win?

There is no single party speaking for all Canadians, that represents their position on issues such as immigration, the gun registry, war in Afghanistan, fixing the economy, or the environment, and unless the Bloc Quebecois slinks out of Parliament in 2011 it will be difficult for any federal party with the same lacklustre leader to win a majority government from Canadians.

In Alberta, political manoeuvring in the coming year will set the stage for the election in March 2012 that Premier Ed Stelmach promises will be held — not that he would actually put that in writing and introduce mandated election dates. But then if the party members are dissatisfied with Stelmach and his timetable for an election, perhaps they would take the matter out of his hands.

No one I have talked to who is connected with the Progressive Conservative party believes there will be an election in 2011 although there will be a cabinet shuffle. Hopefully Stelmach will separate the wheat from the chaff and present a new cabinet up to the task of defining what the party believes in and present policies and legislation that moves Alberta in a clear direction. It might be backward, it might be forward, but anything has to be better than this lurching from crisis to crisis the government has been fitfully engaged in for the last two years. The solution might be as simple as stealing a page from the Chretien Liberals’ playbook, which was to outright steal a page out of the Reform party’s playbook. If you can’t beat the Wildrose Alliance with your own policies, steal their more popular offerings and make them your own.

All provincial parties — and we have more than you think — need to clearly define themselves for the electorate in 2011. For too long the Progressive Conservatives have been the big tent moderate party in Alberta, accepting all manner of wannabe MLAs into caucus. Failed Liberals, power hungry New Democrats, old Social Crediters — all were welcome. Now the shoe is on the other foot and parties on either side of the Tories in the political spectrum are looking to poach household names to anchor their own caucuses.

It would make elections more attractive to fence-sitting voters if you knew for sure what each party would do with your vote. Just how right is the Wildrose Alliance? Are the New Democrats any worse than the Liberals? And what the heck is the Alberta Party?

Turning the page on the calendar is a time to evaluate our past and to chart a new course for the future. This new year brings hope to all of us, it gives us a fresh start.

What will you do in 2011 to improve your community?