Top 5: Political issues to watch in 2016

The world is gripped by a number of pressing issues — a stagnant global economy, a humanitarian crisis in Syria on a scale not seen since the Second World War and the creeping impact of global warming. Those are just a few of the issues the Trudeau government can't ignore in 2016.

Fledgling Trudeau government faces slumping economy and an ambitious social agenda

Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Economy

6 years ago
Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Economy 1:18

The world is gripped by a number of pressing issues — a stagnant global economy, a humanitarian crisis in Syria on a scale not seen since the Second World War and the creeping impact of global warming.

Closer to home, the new Trudeau government is facing challenges of its own, including efforts to renew relations with indigenous peoples and a social agenda that includes legalizing marijuana and crafting a response to a sweeping Supreme Court ruling on physician-assisted death.

CBC News Network's Power & Politics has combed through this year's archives to bring you some of the highlights of the political newsmakers and top issues of 2015, and today we turn our attention to the political issues to watch for in 2016.

Watch the video montages below and watch the full episode of our Top 5 special in the player above.

1. Economy

Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Syrian conflict

6 years ago
Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Syrian conflict 1:18

The Canadian economy has stagnated over the past year as the price of oil collapsed below $50 a barrel in 2015.

The national GDP is growing at a less than impressive rate of 1 per cent a year, and the loonie is touching 11-year lows against the U.S. greenback. It's a daunting picture for any new government.

On the campaign trial, Justin Trudeau threw Stephen Harper's playbook out the window by promising to run deficits and aggressively invest government money in infrastructure — from transit to seniors homes to green technology — to jump start the economy.

The plan got the seal of approval from the likes of David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, and Lawrence Summers, U.S. President Barack Obama's former top economic advisor.

But early indications suggest the Liberals' projection of "modest" $10 billion deficits might be a low-ball figure, and could creep much higher.

2. Syrian conflict

Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Climate change

6 years ago
Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Climate change 1:09

The Syrian conflict has been bloody — some estimates put the number of dead at more than 340,000 people. Millions more have been displaced by the violent civil war that has pitted the country's ruler, Bashar al-Assad, against opposition rebels and ISIS.

The U.S.-led coalition has been dropping bombs on targets held by the Islamic State, targeting the capital of Raqqa. Russian jets have also entered the fray in support of Assad, the country's closest ally in the Middle East, but most of their bombs have been directed at rebels friendly to the West.

Leaders in the West are torn on how to respond to the chaos: some are calling for ground troops to repel ISIS militants, others insist the air campaign is sufficient. In the meantime, countries like Canada are opening their doors to the refugees who are facing the carnage of war.

Could 2016 be a turning point for the conflict? 

3. Climate change

Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Indigenous relations

6 years ago
Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Indigenous relations 1:21

The vast majority of the world's countries signed on to a "historic" climate change pact in Paris earlier this month, promising to hold global warming to below 2C. Canada was among those pushing an even more ambitious target of keeping temperature increases below 1.5C.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said in years past Canada was "hated" by the global community for sabotaging climate deals. This time, an emotional May said there was a dramatic shift thanks to the regime change in Ottawa.

But now attention turns to how Canada will actually meet its new international obligations. Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have pledged to convene a first ministers' meeting early in the new year to hash out new targets and a national framework.

They'll also find a friend in Alberta Premier Rachel Notley who is pushing ahead with deep cuts to carbon emissions — and the phasing out of coal power — in her energy-rich province.

4. Indigenous relations

Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Marijuana

6 years ago
Top 5 Political Issues to Watch: Marijuana 0:59

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its interim report on the abuses of the residential schools system in June and it laid out 94 recommendations it suggested could correct the wrongs of the past. Trudeau came out in support of the findings, pledging to implement all — yes all — of the recommendations.

"It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation," Trudeau said during an address to First Nations leaders in Gatineau, Que. this month.

Key to fulfilling this obligation is launching an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, Trudeau said. He is also repealing legislation unilaterally imposed on indigenous people by the previous government, including spanking laws.

5. Marijuana

One of Trudeau's earliest policy planks was a promise to legalize marijuana. The government has not yet indicated when, and how, it will strike possession of pot from the Criminal Code, but it's touting any plan as an improvement to the current framework that, it says, funnels money into the hands of criminals.

Already, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is floating the idea of selling pot in government-owned liquor stores as a responsible option. The union representing employees at LCBO stores have given their seal of approval. 

But experts from other jurisdictions where the green stuff has been legalized are raising red flags — warning that process will not be an easy one.

"It's going to be a lot harder to implement than you think. It's going to take a lot longer to do it. And it's going to cost more than you think," Lewis Koski, director of Coloardo's Marijuana Enforcement Division, said in an interview with CBC News earlier this year.


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