Strangely, Paris figured largely in the world psyche in more ways than expected. The Paris climate spectacular was expected; the tragic murder of innocent people by terrorists there, and in San Bernardino, was not.
It was that kind of year, a tentative step forward followed by two steps back. The first wobbly moves toward world-wide action to fight climate change was overshadowed by the monstrous cloud of an hate-filled movement hell-bent on triggering the Apocalypse. With a force like ISIS afoot, the very future of civilization seems to be on shaky ground.
Things were not much better back home in Canada, largely as a result of international events beyond our control. The high-flying oil-and-gas industry, which has provided the revenue to keep the country on positive financial footing, has been brought to its knees by OPEC mischief-making. With the price of a barrel of oil south of $40, no one is expecting a recovery any time soon.
The financial impact on Alberta has been brutal. An estimated direct job loss figure of more than 60,000, a provincial budget deficit of more than $6 billion and stories of lost fortunes and even spikes in suicides. The impact, however, does not stop at the provincial border. With the country’s once-richest province in the tank, revenues to the federal government have dropped to the point that the entire Liberal election agenda is being recalculated.
The federal government is reported to be so worried about the state of Alberta’s economy, in fact, that it has called together leading policy-makers, academics and business people to try to pull the economy out of the death-spiral.
Our dollar, meanwhile, is just above 70 cents US and sinking fast, making travel and shopping abroad a bad bet. There is a good side to a low dollar, of course – it makes our products cheaper on the international market, a potential boost to central Canada’s beleaguered manufacturing sector.
The year’s political changes are either positive or a disaster, depending on your political bent. Albertans surprised the country by throwing out a tired, corrupt and incompetent Progressive Conservative regime and voting in the NDP. Socialists in Alberta? Now that challenges every bias the country has ever held.
Nationally, another tired conservative regime got the boot, a Baby Boomer cabal pushed aside by the country’s first federal Generation X leader. As much as they may not be happy about the return of the Grits, a lot of reasonable conservatives will quietly tell you they were not unhappy to see the dour and dictatorial prime minister Stephen Harper sent into retirement.
And now, here we are on the brink of a new year, with a new federal government, a basket full of promises and – soon – 25,000 new Syrian refugees who will call our land of ice and snow home. Perhaps it is in this, our collective act of compassion, that we can find the silver lining to year that had a lot of clouds.
This year, Canadians assembled in service clubs, church basements and extended families to turn heartbreak into action. We showed that when we could see a real, concrete way to help people in desperate need we can spring into action with vigour and determination. As a result, thousands of people will learn for the first time what a truly free and democratic society feels like. And I’m willing to bet they will turn into some of the most loyal Canadians among our number.
Yup, 2015 had some miserable moments. But as we turn our eyes to the year ahead, we can savour the way in which we rose, as a country, above our first-world worries and showed the mettle that makes us the envy of the world. Let us hope we can use some of that same resourcefulness and determination to get our economy rolling again, too.
Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.