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Top 5: Political stories of 2015

The tectonic plates of Canadian politics shifted dramatically this year with the election of Justin Trudeau and the end of the decade-long reign of Stephen Harper.

The federal election campaign, the longest in modern history, takes top spot on our list of the most important political stories of 2015.

But the Canadian government was seized with a number of other pressing issues on the foreign affairs front, including the threat of terrorism and the gargantuan task of resettling tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their war-torn country.

The sluggish economy was also front and centre, as government coffers took a hit with the price of oil sitting stubbornly below $ 50 a barrel.

And for a second year in a row the Senate was an albatross around the neck of the governing party

The Mike Duffy trial, and the revelation that more senators could be referred to the RCMP for allegedly criminal misspending, deepened the woes of the honourable members of the red chamber.

CBC News Network’s Power & Politics has combed through this year’s archives to bring you some of the highlights for each of the top political stories of 2015. Later this week we will bring you the top political blunders, the political players — and issues — to watch in 2016.

Watch the montages below and watch the full Top 5 episode in the player above.

1. The election

Top 5 Issues of 2015: The Election1:26

A stunning victory for Justin Trudeau and 184 seats in the House of Commons — the Oct. 19 election was one for the ages. The reverberations will be felt for the next four years at least, as the Liberal government looks to reverse many of Stephen Harper’s policies.

It was far from a sure thing. At the outset of the campaign, the Liberals languished in third and faced an ascendent NDP.

But the party’s policy-heavy campaign platform wooed voters with an ambitious commitment to ramp up infrastructure spending, cut taxes for the “middle class,” renew relations with indigenous people, tackle climate change and pull back from the air combat mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Trudeau’s commanding performance in a series of leadersdebates also surprised his political foes, and shored up his support among some voters who initially feared he wasn’t ready to lead.

The result forced Harper to step aside from the party’s leadership after more than 10 years at the helm; it also demanded the NDP take a hard look at what it stands for, albeit under the same leader who led them to third party status

2. Terrorism

Top 5 Issues of 2015: Terrorism1:15

The year began with the slaughter of French journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, followed by terrorist attacks in Sydney and Baghdad and Beirut, then Paris again, among other locales. 

Most of the Western world, and some of its Arab allies, have doubled down on military efforts to arrest the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Foreign fighters have flocked to the region, only to return to their home countries to wreak havoc.

Harper was an early proponent of military airstrikes against the group as it threatened populations in Iraq. CF-18s have been dropping bombs on targets in the area, alongside other U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

Some 70 Canadian special ops have also been working on the ground, training Kurdish Peshmerga in the country’s north to take on ISIS fighters.

And yet Trudeau has promised to pull back from the bombing mission — despite criticism from military circles — while beefing up the number of personnel training and assisting our allies. This is a story that will almost certainly spill over into the new year, as the political ramifications of terrorism mount.

3. Refugee crisis

Top 5 Issues of 2015: Refugee crisis1:00

Terrorism and the Syrian refugee crisis have gone hand in hand. For nearly three years, Syria has been torn apart by a civil war between forces loyal to the country’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad, and rebels looking for an alternative

Tens of thousands have been killed. The advent of ISIS, and its control over a large swath of the country’s territory, has made matters even worse.

But the refugee crisis hit even closer to home when — in the middle of the federal election campaign — pictures of a dead three-year-old boy with connections to Canada surfaced. Alan Kurdi, as well as his brother and mother, drowned in an attempt to flee the desperate situation in Syria.

The Harper government had to defend against accusations it hadn’t moved fast enough to help refugees, and touted a pledge to bring in 10,000 more Syrian refugees. But the opposition grabbed hold of the controversy, painting the government as heartless in the face of grave turmoil.

Trudeau promised to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada by year’s end, a promise he’s since had to amend in the face of bureaucratic realities.

Now, the new immigration minister, John McCallum, is pressing forward with the opening a refugee processing centre in Jordan and a new target of 35,000 to 50,000 by the end of 2016.

4. The Senate

Top 5 Issues of 2015: The Senate1:03

By now, most Canadians are well-versed on the troubles the Senate has faced over the past two years and the trials or tribulations of senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau and retired senator Mac Harb.

Harper promised Senate reform but made little progress during his tenure, save for a reference to the Supreme Court and a last-minute pledge to halt appointments altogether.

Now, the Trudeau government is promising reform beyond kicking Liberal-appointed senators out of its caucus. Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef is pressing ahead with a promise to make five non-partisan appointments early in the new year, with one of those new picks slated to be government leader in the Senate.

5. Oil 

Top 5 Issues of 2015: Oil1:12

Gone are the days when analysts were warning of “peak oil” and sky-high oil prices in perpetuity. Since OPEC, the cartel of oil producing countries, refused to lower its production targets even in the face of surging supply, the price of oil has languished.

The United States has also ramped up domestic oil production after years of importing tens of millions of barrels from foreign sources.

These two moves drove down the price of oil, leaving Alberta, and to a lesser extent, Saskatchewan, in a tough spot. Even in the midst of the recession, Alberta had been riding high thanks to lofty oil prices. Fast forward to 2015 and the province’s new NDP government is facing a fiscal hole of $ 6.1 billion.

CBC | Politics News