As 2018 comes to a close, the political stars are aligning to make 2019 one of the most contentious years in recent memory.
The federal election next year will spark countless debates about Canada's identity and role in the world in this new era of Trump, isolationism, demagoguery, and division.
The same themes and problems that plagued the infamous 2016 election in the United States are also set to reemerge in Canada. The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is already warning of the potential for foreign agents to interfere in Canadian political discourse, according to CTV News.
TL;DR In this opinion piece, I outline the possibile near future of Canadian politics and public discourse.
Such intrusion represents a threat to national security and the integrity of democratic institutions. But these foreign agents work by exploiting controversy and division that is preexisting. Canada's greater concern, perhaps, is the emergence of a new, splintered political landscape characterized by exclusionary policies and the absence of galvanizing leadership.
Both points will become clear during the campaign season of the 2019 election, which, despite its distance, promises to produce remarkably predictable results.
Right now, the Liberals, with Justin Trudeau as their leader, are poised to retain their majority in the House. As the CBC points out, Canadian history shows that parties that poll in the majority in the year before an election almost always meet expectations.
This projection, however, speaks more to the lack of a viable alternative than to the popularity of the Liberals and Trudeau, himself.
In fact, only 29% of Canadians "believe the Trudeau government deserves reelection," according to DART.
The prime minister has become a divisive figure since a wave of optimism about the young leader's prospects carried him into office in 2015.
Last week, Andrew MacDougall put it best in an opinion piece for the Ottawa Citizen: "our 'sunny ways' PM has turned into Trudeau the Divider."
Conservatives criticize Trudeau for what they perceive as disastrous economic policy while progressives bemoan the discrepancy between his soaring, platitudinous rhetoric and his reluctance to pursue some of his most exciting campaign promises, including electoral reform.
But while Trudeau continues to stir strong reactions, the NDP remains fragmented and the federal Conservatives have yet to land on a rallying message or convincing policy initiatives.
Trudeau will, therefore, be easily reelected but suffer crippling limitations to his ability to perform. After the 2019 federal election, the Trudeau government will have to contend with stiflingly low public opinion and a precarious degree of confidence in its leader.
Such a cautious and potentially fruitless federal government will be vulnerable to attack from the more radical parties and figures emerging in the provinces.
In fact, it is to the provincial governments that Canadians must look for a glimpse of their political future. This year, right-wing parties made grand debuts in the country's two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec.
Doug Ford has already become on of Canada's most controversial figures since his rise to premiership in Ontario. His party has gut the Toronto city council, slashed the initiatives of the previous Liberal government, and threatened to cut Francophone services.
Ford's policies have provoked controversy and outry unprecedented in recent Canadian history. But it was his plan to reduce the number of available services to native French-speakers in the province that is perhaps most troubling.
The protection of the French language is the cornerstone of modern Canadian identity. Despite the withdrawal of his initial proposal, Ford has sowed division and undermined confidence in the long-term ability of institutions across Canada to safeguard the core tenet of the Canadian state.
His proposal has already had far-reaching consequences. After Montreal mayor Valérie Plante gave a speech entirely in English last week, critics cited Ford's plan as a reason to commit to the propagation of French.
Ford has also only further emboldened the centre-right Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government. His threat to the French language has infused the CAQ agenda with a sense of urgency.
CAQ leader and Quebec premier François Legault has framed his plans to reduce immigration to the province and eject immigrants who do not demonstrate proficincy in French after three years of residency as a mission of cultural preservation.
While Legault has largely abstained from the strong language Ford has used to describe migration into his province, their policies will have comparable results.
These pursuits in Ontario and Quebec will move the conversation about immigration away from a weakened federal government and place it at the disposal of clamouring provincial parties.
The trajectory of this discussion exemplifies the vicious cycle that is set to dominate Canadian politics for the foreseeable future.
Political characters in the provinces will take advantage of a federal government reduced in the public opinion to dominate the national discourse and bolster their popularity. As has already transpired in Ontario and Quebec, these leaders will inevitably compete with each other, engaging in self-serving public debates.
Such an exchange occured this week on a smaller scale between politicians in Alberta and Quebec. In response to Legault's condemnation of pipeline construction, Albertans took to Twitter to encourage a boycott of all products from Quebec.
This will all amount to a breakdown in Canadian political discourse that fosters more radical tendencies, which, in turn, will be amplified by foreign agents already at work.
These trends may even lead to a federal government under a prime minister Doug Ford.
Political optimism has all but disappeared from the national mood. In fact, the near future of politics in Canada is pretty dismal.
We are entering an era dominated by political discontent.