Every new year brings the promise of change but at the start, that's all it is: a promise. Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose is the old French proverb: the more things change, the more they're the same.
Across the Maritimes, 2013 is shaping up as one of those years where more stays the same than changes. That's not good, because some things around here could use some shaking up.
Politically and economically, 2013 looks like a year of stability on the Atlantic shore. There's no bull market in things Maritime, neither are there bears at the door. The Mayans never heard of the Maritimes.
On the Island, the Liberal government is midway through its second mandate and enjoys a comfortable majority. That isn't to say there aren't Islanders who would like to see Premier Robert Ghiz doing something else for a living. But a change in government is not in the cards, not in 2013.
Same goes in New Brunswick, where David Alward and his Progressive Conservatives are comfortably mid-mandate with a legislated election date set for September, 2014. Of course a lot could change between now and then, but Alward's Tories are still well ahead in the polls and there's no immediate threat to their position.
It is entirely possible, even probable, that Nova Scotians will vote in 2013. The NDP government under Darrell Dexter came to power in June 2009, so this summer it will mark four years in office.
Dexter's people aren't speaking publicly about an election but the NDP has been working hard to offset a grumbling dissidence over taxes, power rates and its spending to support business. There's only one public poll available and it suggests the NDP's approval ratings are down. What it doesn't suggest is that Nova Scotians are ready for a change of government.
With the Conservative government under Stephen Harper well ensconced in Ottawa, there's no significant change coming on the federal stage either. The opposition parties are just strong enough to offset each other's electoral chances, meaning Parliament will likely stay in Conservative hands for many years to come.
Their solid majority also means Harper's Conservatives know they can change the way things work between Ottawa and the provinces, including our little three on the east coast. They have shown they can win majorities with few seats in the Maritimes.
That lack of voting support here could be returned as diminished fiscal support from Ottawa, in contrast to historical norms. Traditionally, federal governments have done a lot to safeguard and nurture the economy and social programs of the smaller provinces. There are signs that's changing.
If it does, the Maritimes will get hurt. Federal transfers for health care are already facing caps on growth. The current federal equalization formula was reached in 2004 and is up for renewal next year. The Conservatives have signalled that, from their perspective, it's time for change.
What that might turn out to be is the $15 billion question.
It's seems likely that the Conservatives are considering a new formula, which might end up taking less from parts of the country where their voters live and transferring less to parts where they don't. That means fewer burdens on Tory-voting Alberta and the Prairies and fewer benefits for Quebec and the Maritimes.
There's a lot of noise out there about equalization, about how Maritimers are equalization addicts who refuse to manage our own affairs and that federal transfers act as incentives for inaction.
So if there's one politico-economic element of our lives we might change in 2013, maybe we should resolve to become more productive ourselves and less dependent on federal spending. Getting at that now will head off pain in the future.
Politicians and opinion leaders from the east also have to remind everyone else that equalization amounts to five per cent of federal spending. It shouldn't be immune to rational reforms, but it's not crippling Canada.
Seeing as how it's mostly quiet, Maritime governments should get on that now. The relative peace of 2013 might turn out to be a mere lull before turbulence next year and beyond.
Dan Leger is a Halifax-based writer and commentator. Twitter: @Dantheeditor.