Ken McGhie wears patriotic glasses while celebrating Canada Day at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg Sunday July 01, 2012.
Credits: BRIAN DONOGH/ QMI AGENCY
Last year at this time, conventional wisdom was that in the coming U.S. election, Barack Obama was toast - huge numbers of jobless, a soaring debt, a lousy economy, no record of achievements to campaign on. The future seemed Republican.
So much for conventional wisdom!
Obama cruised back into the presidency, but the problems of 2012 - the year that ends at midnight - largely overlap into tomorrow. The start of lucky 2013.
In some ways, the world is in worse shape now than it was 12 months ago.
The crisis with the euro - the European Union's currency - hasn't been solved but merely postponed in Greece, spreading to Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland.
Germany flourishes, but then the Germans always do. Depending on outlook, they could be called a master race - except when it comes to war.
The real headache for the civilized world centres on the Mediterranean.
The nuisance of Moammar Gadhafi was largely solved by Libyans themselves, aided and abetted by NATO air strikes. Now the Libyan "problem" (if that's what it is) seems to be the Muslim Brotherhood and perhaps al-Qaida.
It turns out the "Arab Spring" did not usher democracy into the Muslim world as so many had hoped, and optimists predicted. Egypt, right now, is struggling with its new "leader" seeking to become an old dictator.
Again, the Muslim Brotherhood is the revived threat as it seeks to impose Shariah law and reduce women to chattel.
An apparent certainty of 2013 is it will see the end of the Assad legacy in Syria, where a rebellion sparked by Syrians themselves keeps gaining both ground and support.
As 2012 ends, fears mount that Syria's weakened and stubborn leader, Bashar al-Assad (or the generals who manipulated him), will resort to chemical weapons and sarin gas to destroy the revolution. This threat may be the one thing that brings Russia onside with the rest of the world to get rid of tyranny in Syria.
Events in Syria have muted (for the moment) agitation about Iran's lust for nuclear weapons. But that issue can't be postponed indefinitely, in hopes that Iran's vibrant but dormant democratic opposition will somehow gain ascendency and oust the homicidal, theocratic mullahs who control the country.
Otherwise, Israel may feel forced to do the job - despite President Obama's refusal to co-operate with or support Israeli concerns.
Amid all the international turmoil and economic malaise that beset the world, one country seems to emerge from the maelstrom relatively unscathed, rather as comic strip characters Mr. Magoo or Li'l Abner's Joe Btfsplk survive disasters. That country: Canada.
Without being complacent, Canada hasn't suffered economically as other countries have, including (perhaps, especially) the U.S. It's now recognized that Canada has, arguably, the best banking system in the world that keeps the economy intact and public morale afloat.
Approve or disagree, we also have a federal government that seems to know what it is doing, and a prime minister, Stephen Harper, who may not be a rock star but exudes competence and understanding of the world and the economy. Harper's various trips and trade missions to France, China, India, South America have enhanced both Canada's prestige and economic well-being. In comparative terms, we are a country that is working well.
As for our politics, it would seem the only issue for the NDP and Liberals is which party will be the opposition after the next election, which is a long way off.
In short, prospects for Canada in 2013 look brighter than they do for the world.