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Michael T. Brennan

“Let’s not do that again.” That is the best way to sum up 2016 that I can think of. It may not have been the worst of the 50 years I’ve been around, but it ranks in the top two.

We should have seen this coming. In late December of 2015, Ethan Couch, the infamous ‘affluenza kid’, was caught in Mexico, skipping town with mom to avoid conviction. The Couch family is the purest essence of the narcissism and self-absorption that we have normalized. We will be living with the results for years to come.

Twelve months ago I was convinced that Brexit and Trump were sideshows and that we would put a dent in the refugee crisis in North Africa and Europe. I was confident that here at home we would move forward on much-needed health care reform. I was optimistic that these distractions were a test for us all to pass and learn from as Postcards from the Edge. These issues were meant to demonstrate that we could overcome our ignoble instincts and think our way to the right choice.

Not so much.

Given that good news is possible even in the worst of times, I am going to hold out hope for 2017.

I need not go into detail about the events in the UK and United States. Suffice it to say that in the decades to come, scholars will look back on 2016 as the year democracy was tested to its limits, and maybe beyond. Even here at home, we just witnessed a collective effort by the federal and provincial governments to achieve stable funding for health care with national priorities for meaningful systemic improvements. The solutions are obvious, well documented and easy to implement. Yet this effort ended as so much else has this year; in a pool of recriminations and finger pointing, with no one able to take a thoughtful risk.

Things are rarely as bad as they seem (1914 and 1939 being the awful exceptions). Maybe we will be able to step back from the precipice, but I won’t ever again make predictions on such matters. My optimism can’t take any more abuse. Yet there were a few hopeful signs in 2016. Canada’s effort in welcoming Syrian refugees has been inspirational. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Greece’s economy grew 2%. CPA membership was up by 2.7%.

So there were a few positive notes in an otherwise deafening symphony of suck.

Given that good news is possible even in the worst of times, I am going to hold out hope for 2017.

We must all do what we can to prepare for a time when thoughtfulness will once again be welcome in policy making when evidence will count more than sentiment.

Let’s treat 2017 like a ‘do over’, and be thankful that, notwithstanding our best efforts to screw it up, we live in a stable, open society that gives us second, third and even fourth chances to do better than we deserve.


Michael Brennan
Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Physiotherapy Association


Dear Michael,

At a time when I feel completely spent and exhausted, I find your words filled with hope and encouragement for a bright new tomorrow...and 2017!

Blessings to you always,


Thank you for this commentary.  I agree wholeheartedly.  And am holding out hope. 

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