Next year is already shaping up to be busy in politics as the Canadian federal election is scheduled for October with a fair-share of parliamentary scandals to unravel in the meantime.
TransCanada’s $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline is still undecided upon, however, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said a Keystone bill will be the first item of business in the Senate in the New Year. The Republicans, who are known for their preference of the Keystone project, will come into power in January 2015, after they won a midterm election, however, a Keystone bill will force US President Barack Obama to make a decision — or veto the project altogether — a choice he says he’s not afraid to exercise.
Sometime in February, the auditor general is expected to table a major expense audit on every senator. Auditor General Michael Ferguson told reporters late last year that his office intends to complete the audit by the end of March. The Senate has been plagued by scandal since allegations of misspending by senators former Conservatives Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and former Liberal Senator Mac Harb. All except Wallin face charges, although she is still under RCMP investigation.
A balanced Federal budget
Early in 2015, the Conservative government is expected to table its annual budget. Although the Prime Minister and his government have been swaying Canadians toward the balanced end of things, it remains unclear as to what kind of surplus anyone will be looking at. However, Finance Minister Joe Oliver is guesstimating the figure to be around $1.9 billion. Canada has not had a federal surplus since 2007.
NDP leadership vote in Manitoba
Manitoba will be electing a new NDP leader March 8, after several NDP caucus members called for the resignation of Manitoba Premier, Greg Selinger. Selinger has been under fire for his decision to increase the provincial sales tax.
Mike Duffy Trial
Suspended Senator Mike Duffy’s fraud, bribery and breach of trust case will begin on April 7 and last for 41 days, from April 7 to May 12 and June 1 to 19. The former journalist and Conservative senator is facing 31 charges. These dates are key as they mean any potentially damaging information toward the Harper government would be leaked prior to the October federal election. It’s still possible that Harper will be called to testify.
There are other politically-related court appearances set for 2015 including former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, who resigned from the House of Commons in November, who was found guilty on all counts of exceeding spending limits during the 2008 federal election campaign.
Former Conservative staffer, Michael Sona, awaits an appeal of his conviction and sentence after he was found guilty of election fraud in connection with the 2011 robocalls scandal. Then there is Harper’s former adviser, Bruce Carson, who will stand trail on September 8 for peddling.
Talk of a new legislation that would give police and security agencies new power, has been in the works for months. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, has repeatedly said the bill is coming, but has not yet provided a date or any details.
Stephen Harper’s government is on the move to implement an income-splitting plan that would allow families with children under the age of 18 to divide their incomes in order to reduce personal taxes. While a motion was passed last year by the House of Commons in favor of adopting the Family Tax Cut, formal legislation has not been finalized.
Supreme Court decisions
The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to make several important decisions in 2015, namely whether terminally ill Canadians who are mentally aware will have the right to a medically assisted death.
The top courts are also expected to make decisions on two Crown appeals where the Conservative government’s mandatory minimum sentences for firearms charges are constitutional. This topic comes about as part of Harper’s 2008 bill.
Three union-related cases will also be tended to by Canada’s Supreme Court including the Mounted Police Association of Ontario, who are asking for the right to form an independent union. A challenge against the RCMP’s wage increase limits (as outlined in the government’s Expenditure Restraint Act) is also in the limelight as is the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, who is requesting the high courts to decide whether changes to the province’s labor laws are constitutional.
Since, despite rumors, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s not planning an early election, Canadians will head to the polls on the fixed election date of October 19, 2015. The result of the upcoming election will, of course, have a vast impact on Canada. Until then, Canadians are left wondering what the year will actually bring.