As always, it's impossible to accurately what the big new stories of the upcoming year will be. Though some major events — like elections or blockbuster sporting tournaments — are expected occurrences, others pop up entirely without warning.
CBC Hamilton, with the help of a few members of the city's chattering classes, has compiled a shortlist of stories that promise to make headlines in the city in 2013. (We may be wrong in our predictions, but hey, it's fun to try.)
The decision about whether to allow a casino in downtown Hamilton will inevitably make big news in the early months of 2013. Council has until the end of February to inform to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) about whether it wants a gaming facility, and if so, the sites where one could be located.
“The casino will be THE story because of the many dilemmas it creates,” Laura Babcock, a communications specialist and political commentator, writes in an email to CBC Hamilton.Laura Babcock is the president of Powergroup, a Hamilton communications firm. (Supplied)
Babcock, one of the many players who oppose the placement of a casino in downtown Hamilton, says that the issue raises many questions.
“Is Hamilton about to become successful from other industries or do we need the casino revenue? Is a casino what we see as our vision for our core or will we take what is being offered now? Does protecting our most vulnerable populations equate with taking away their choice or is it being responsible?”
Former Hamilton mayor Larry Di Ianni agrees the issue will make big news, but he has a different take.
“When council sees that the private sector is willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a downtown casino, they will give the green light for that to happen,” he predicts.
“And the OLG will put the casino in our core. The sky will not fall and the downtown Mayan naysayers will concede that this too was a good deal for the city.”
In 2012, Hamilton community groups mobilized to advocate for many causes — to spare historic buildings, to oppose a downtown casino, to condemn budget cuts for social services, and more. It's a trend that's not likely to subside in the coming months.
“You'll see a more engaged community,” forecasts Evelyn Myrie, executive director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. “You'll see people at the grassroots getting involved in all parts of decision making across the city.”Evelyn Myrie is the executive director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.
She says recent cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides care to some refugees, would have a big impact on the ground.
“I think the need for improved service delivery to newcomers, especially the hard-to-serve refugees, will be a major concern for the community.”
Babcock says local activists will mobilize on several fronts.
“Downtown will get a lot of attention on two fronts — with its new buildings that will reshape the skyline and new industries that will further vitalize it, and the fight to protect its heritage assets."
In particular, she mentions a plan to tear down a strip of historic buildings that sit on the south side of Gore Park.
Anti-poverty activists, she adds, will continue to lobby the provincial government to restore more funding to relief programs for low-income and homeless Ontarians.
Though the current term of council is barely half over, expect the lead-up to next municipal election to make headlines in the coming year.
"The prognosticating about who will run for mayor in 2014 will be a key narrative," Babcock says.
“I think you'll see also people will start showing hands around the political table,” Myrie says.
On that issue, Di Ianni drops the following bit of gossip:
“As we approach summer, a strong well-known Hamilton personality will signal her intent to seek the mayor's chair for the 2014 election.”
“[N]ow that the Ticats have hired the coach they wanted all along, Kent Austin, they are going to use the season away from town to rebuild,” Di Ianni wrote in an e-mail.
The former mayor goes on to make a very bold, very tongue-in-cheek prediction about the team's prowess in the upcoming season.
“However, they will surprise and make history by being the first-ever Guelph Tiger Cats to win the Grey Cup.
“Take that to the bank!”