As 2013 approaches, it’s time to look back on the biggest stories of 2012. Canadians watched events abroad with heightened focus this year as uncertain economies in Europe and the United States threatened to plunge the interconnected economies of many nations back into recession. Canadians also watched with interest as Americans re-elected Barack Obama.
But it was the stories in their own backyard that made the biggest impact.
It’s impossible to make a definitive list of the issues Canadians were most moved by, but the following stories, in no specific order, are among those that fuelled national debate and multitudes of headlines. See our take on Canada’s biggest business stories of the year.
A mishmash of issues made the oil sands fuel for countless headlines this year. From the overhaul of environmental legislation to the role of Chinese state investment in Canada, oil sands-related issues were cause for wide ranging debate.
China’s communist regime figured prominently in that debate due to its growing footprint in the oil sands and the pending Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement. With the Harper government looking to build trade ties with China amidst stories about espionage, human rights abuses, and growing unrest there, deals involving the Chinese regime have been notably unpopular.
Polls found Canadians were largely opposed to CNOOC’S (China National Offshore Oil Corporation) takeover of Calgary-based Nexen, prompting delays in the government’s approval of the deal and new guidelines for foreign takeovers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper barred future takeovers by foreign state-owned enterprises over concerns foreign countries could effectively nationalize the oil sands.
Pipelines to deliver the crude also attracted widespread opposition. The Keystone XL pipeline south to Texas was put on hold during the U.S. presidential election due to widespread opposition from Democrat-voting environmentalists. Meanwhile, the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to take oil west to tankers at a proposed port in Kitimat B.C., has spurred passionate protest, particularly from First Nations along the proposed route.
But with the oilsands promising to put billions of dollars into the Canadian economy amidst widespread austerity, Canadians can expect the government to support further development.
Misleading phone calls during the 2011 federal election prompted Elections Canada, the RCMP, and the Conservative Party of Canada to investigate—an ongoing issue that made headlines throughout 2012.
A Federal Court case that concluded Wednesday heard arguments from lawyers on whether the calls kept voters from casting their ballots. A finding that it did could prompt six by-elections in ridings held by Conservative MPs.
Ongoing media coverage has largely centred on allegations that robocalls misled Guelph, Ont., voters after Elections Canada traced the calls to a burner phone registered to a “Pierre Poutine.” The scandal has led opposition MPs to accuse the Conservatives of misconduct.
Big, bundled bills made headlines repeatedly throughout the year, from C-10, the omnibus crime bill, to C-38 and C-45, the two omnibus budget bills. The Conservatives used the three omnibus bills to push dozens of individual bills through Parliament in relatively short order. While opposition MPs decried the omnibus bills as undemocratic because individual measures could not be studied in detail or voted on in isolation, the government argued the bills accelerated changes meant to support the national economy.
It was to be the fighter jet of the future but Canada’s planned purchase of 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets has been grounded by mounting controversy. The once-sure procurement is now put on hold pending a detailed review that includes independent oversight due to escalating costs estimates.
Allegations the procurement of the jet had gone awry began to make headlines during a 2010 investigation by Parliament’s defence committee which raised questions about costs, industrial benefits, and Canada’s participation in the Joint Strike Fighter program that the jet originated from.
The Conservatives began an overhaul of Canada’s commitment to the jet in April after newly installed auditor general Michael Ferguson detailed a litany of problems in his first Spring Report. That report has since prompted the government to reset the procurement and look at whether the F-35 is the best option to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s.