The year of #enough2016
CBC’s news icon Peter Mansbridge has been reporting events near and far for decades — and maybe one more year. With that in mind, we go to our evening news guru for a look back at a very iffy year, to try and make sense of it all.
As far as years go, most people would agree that we’ve had better. We saw the deaths of artistic luminaries such as David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen, for example, combined with the election of Donald Trump that has many fearing for the future. So we went to the guy who has seemed to make sense of a lot of things for a lot of Canadians for about four decades: CBC newsman Peter Mansbridge, who is planning to sign off on The National for the last time in the coming year.
This has been a crazy year for many people, from leftleaning politicos to music fans. From your chair, has it been as abnormally abysmal as it seems to some?
You’re never going to please everyone. This year, there were a lot of stories that really impacted people on a gut level. There was the election of Trump in the United States after a year where people couldn’t believe what they were watching. And it’s had a lingering impact, and people are still talking about it and still wondering about it and how it’s going to impact them. There was Gord Downie’s illness, which had such a huge effect on a wide swath of Canadians. You know, we tend to think the Hip kind of impacted a generation surrounding the late ’80s and ’90s, but it was a lot more than that. It was a really Canadian story on so many different levels, and people were upset by it but also took some refuge in the fact that here was a guy who is willing to spend his remaining months or years fighting for a cause, and that affected a lot of people. But then you throw in something that makes everyone feel good, the Blue Jays season again. It’s very rare when you get the entire country behind something from Toronto, but there it was. And we felt good about it, and it was a great ride while it lasted.
What has given you hope?
I believe in the enduring goodness of Canadians. I think, when push does come to shove, Canadians tend to do the right thing. Often, that is in showing ways they care. Whether it is on the big picture — the way Canadians stepped up on the Syrian refugee crisis — or much smaller things in a time of economic uncertainty, like drives for support whether it is hospitals or charities. And when I see that, I think, as bad as things sometimes look, we seem to rally together and do good things.
What would you say was the most under-reported story of the year?
I still believe, and have done for the past 10 or 15 years, that climate change is the most underreported story. We tend to debate it still when the facts are pretty damn clear. I don’t think that on any level we are ready for what’s coming over the next century. I think we are handing on a legacy to children and grandchildren that they are going to judge us by.
Have you seen anything that compares to the recent U.S. election, both in the lead up and the results?
No, nothing like this. This guy did everything against convention. There is no question he took stands considered by many to be racist, bigoted and sexist, and he allowed that to be out there, and clearly it appealed to some people. He didn’t campaign in a normal way. He didn’t buy TV ads until the very end. It was kind of unheard of. Nobody would have done that before, and I don’t think the networks would have accepted the calls. This guy was a draw, and he knew how to play the media, and we kept saying it, and he kept playing us anyway.
Is there any reason for optimism?
The only caution I’ll throw in: although this campaign has been unlike anything else I’ve seen, and some of the stuff he said was outrageous and allowed to be said on his behalf was outrageous, I covered Reagan-Carter, and there was this feeling on the part of a lot of people that we’d be at nuclear war in a month if Reagan won. People were horrified at the thought that he’d win, and then when he won, even more horrified. In a way, I’ve seen this movie before to a degree, but nothing like this. As Obama said [about Trump], “He won. Let’s see what he does with it.” And I’ll guess we’ll find out.
And what about locally, in Toronto — what do you see as the big stories shaping up for 2017?
Well, if you’d asked me yesterday I’m not sure what I would have said. But this morning, I read about Tory wanting tolls on the Gardiner and the DVP. And I gotta say, as someone who travels the world and has been to a lot of different places, I’ve always wondered why we seem to only have one [toll road, Highway 407]. But it’s going to be an issue. It’s a very challenging moment for politicians to start increasing the cost of living for people.
What else should we be paying more attention to?
The other thing that is evident in this city: you walk down some of the richest streets in this country where money changes hands — and I’m talking about downtown Toronto — you walk down those streets and see men and women lying under blankets on top of heating vents in the sidewalks, and you know that something is not right here. There are amazing people working to try and correct that situation. But it is still a staggering thing to see in 2016 when we are on the verge of our 150th birthday, a country admired and cherished around the world. It is still quite a sight to see.