Hoping to make a brand new start? You’ve got good company.

Resolutions are made to be broken. What a scary thought for shareholders. Consumers too. It’s the time when people pledge to do better. One hopes that this annual ritual will be performed with a little conviction this time around. Looking back on 2009, it’s clear there are many folks with ample reason to consider changing their ways.

2008 saw a listeria scare at Maple Leaf Foods plants, and in 2009 more Maple Leaf hot dogs were recalled for the same issue. So we sincerely want to believe it when executives at Maple Leaf Foods wave their champagne glasses in the air on New Year’s Eve and promise, “Next year, we switch to the leading detergent.”

The traditional New Year’s resolutions involve kicking various leisure-time habits: smoking, drinking, perhaps heroin for some unfortunates. It’s not often someone makes a firm resolution to stop going to the movies. Maybe someone at CanWest Global should have. A little late now. The 2007 acquisition of Alliance Atlantis for $2.3 billion did not leave Canwest with much left over for popcorn, or Maltesers, or debt refinancing. 2009 saw the company taking on water and finally breaking apart. A good 2010 resolution for CanWest: try a remake of Raise the Titanic.

If CanWest was a box office bust last year, maybe Nortel Networks ought to give Hollywood a try. If ever a company followed the plot of a slasher flick it would be Nortel. Who, except perhaps Halloween psycho Michael Myers, could lose so many parts and keep coming back so often? How many deaths can one entity undergo? After a series of crises apparently dating back to the birth of Alexander Graham Bell, Nortel finally, definitively, died last summer, announcing that it would cease operations. The only possible New Year’s resolution for Nortel: a major studio deal for a zombie flick.

It’s a little harder to imagine a practical New Year’s resolution for the folks at Vancouver City Hall. Perhaps this: everybody at 12th and Cambie should buy a copy of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, learn the “law of attraction” and start visualizing a nice big housing boom for 2010 that might – might – get the city to the break-even point on False Creek’s Olympic Village development. Sacrificing a few goats would be an idea too. We’re looking at a potential shortfall of a billion or so dollars here, so let’s not skimp on the goats.

The problem with New Year’s is it often comes too late. Resolutions that should have been offered up to the gods of fate months ago are already being breached. The crashing chords of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” had barely faded from the halls of government when news emerged that executives at publicly bailed-out companies such as General Motors, AIG and Bank of America were once again pocketing big perks. A resolution against unwarranted greed might be the equivalent of resolving to cure the common cold. But can we at least resolve that, in 2010, financial schemes that are too complex for anyone to satisfactorily explain shall henceforth be approached the same way as emails from Nigerian princes? 

Meanwhile, the resolution business itself will experience a boom season, thanks in part to the people at BC Lotto. Back in August, they helpfully boosted the weekly online gaming limit from $120 to – let’s see, what would be a reasonable increase? – $10,000. Now British Columbians have exponentially more potential for serious financial regret and hence that much more motivation to make resolutions and stick with them. A little motivational gift from BC Lotto to you. You’re welcome, I’m sure.

Finally, there is one straightforward New Year’s resolution anyone can make: simply to try something new. Firmly resolving to go where you have never gone before, to do something that you have never done. I humbly suggest that this resolution might profitably be adopted by the Vancouver Canucks. You can try it too, if you like.