Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Steve, Justin, call it a day

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CALGARY -- January is special because it is so early in the year we have yet to have our hearts broken by shattered political promises, hidden tax hikes, omnibus budget bills that also rewrite our environmental laws and outrageous stories of inflated travel expenses.

With legislatures and Parliament idle, Canadians still feel optimistic about themselves, their country -- even their leaders. It's the same effect the NHL lockout has on diehard Maple Leafs fans. (They're still in the playoff hunt!)

This is not an emotion to be squandered, but rather to be fed and watered in the hopes that at least some seeds of goodwill will sprout and take root. In the spirit of the season, let us leap on this fleeting goodwill and concoct a wish list for 2013. Here are a few requests to make this an annus for the ages.

Stephen Harper should do an Alec Baldwin, and quit while he's on top. Yup, the famous actor says he's packing it in. Likewise, Harper has had quite a run on the political stage for a guy so bland he makes Greek yogurt seem interesting.

The Conservative party is in solid shape and needs to install some fresh blood at the top. A healthy dose of charisma could be the secret sauce that finally transforms the Tories from the least bad option for voters to something they actually like. It would be a selfless act for Harper; will he take one for the party?

-- Brad Wall should move to the national stage. He is, after, all the most popular premier in Canada, showing political smarts, a sense of humour and a common touch that makes him a favourite in his home province of Saskatchewan. He could be the perfect successor to Harper on the national stage. Besides, Saskatchewan has a lot to atone for, after saddling the country with John Diefenbaker.

-- Justin Trudeau should bow out of the campaign to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. Sacrilege, I know, but Trudeau is not quite ready for prime time. Yet, if he runs, Grits -- who are so hungry for the second coming of the party's messiah -- might not be able to resist his admitted box-office appeal. All in all, a medium-rare Trudeau could become yet another train wreck for a party that's still reeling from two leadership disasters in a row. Quite honestly, it can't afford to make another mistake if it ever hopes to regain official Opposition status, let alone power. How about a genuine, steady and proven Canadian hero, such as Mark Garneau? Here's a guy with no apparent skeletons in his closet, and who -- importantly -- says the same things to Radio-Canada that he does to the CBC.

-- Ontario's Liberal government needs to steal Tim Hudak's idea and privatize the LCBO. The world of wine (indeed, all spirits) is so vast, it's mind-boggling, but you sure wouldn't know it from a trip down the aisles of even the biggest Liquor Control Board of Ontario's beige-on-beige outlets. As a recovering Ontarian, I, too was overwhelmed by the cornucopia of choices I discovered in the larger liquor stores in my adopted province of Alberta. And, hey, the prices are NOT higher, by the way, unless you need to pop down to the local corner liquor store at midnight. But if you live in Ontario, you can't do that either, can you?

-- Christy Clark needs to work on her graceful exit. You know that light at the end of the political tunnel the B.C. Liberals are seeing? It's actually a freight train of angry British Columbia voters, looking to roll over a government that foolishly bet its future on the harmonized sales tax. Clark surely knows her days as premier are running down. Her duty now is not to leave an ugly legacy for the oncoming Orange Wave, and not to make desperate Hail Mary legislative passes in the hopes voters will forget the sins of Clark's predecessor, Gordon Campbell.

-- PQ Premier Pauline Marois would do her province, and indeed the whole country, a huge favour if she would stop talking about separation. But that's like asking the NRA to admit unrestricted gun ownership is a bad idea, isn't it? Would it be too much just to ask for at least scandal-free government?

-- Thomas Mulcair must keep his beard neatly trimmed. I was going to suggest he shave it off, but it appears the federal NDP leader may be onto something. The Journal of Marketing Communications found in a recent study men with beards are more credible than those who are clean-shaven. Participants in a study thought men with beards had greater expertise and were significantly more trustworthy. So Mulcair is about as likely to ditch his beard as Alberta Premier Alison Redford is to forgo her pearls. Fair enough. But if Mulcair keeps the beard, he should at least consider spending more time on an exercise bike.

I know some of these suggestions may seem a bit forward, but they are offered in the spirit of hopefulness and optimism. Much as our leaders have disappointed us time after time, we commoners can only dare to dream of what could be if our leaders put the public good ahead of personal interest. If only.

Doug Firby is editor-in-chief of Troy Media and national affairs columnist.

--Troy Media

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 J1

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