01/01/2015 05:00 EST | Updated 03/02/2015 05:59 EST

2015: 13 big news events to watch for in the year ahead

The 1989 movie Back to the Future, Part II gave the world a fictitious view of what 2015 might look like through the eyes of Marty McFly, predicting things like flying cars and portable fusion power. CBC News doesn't (yet) have a time machine, but as the new year begins, here's a look at some of the real upcoming events that are expected to help shape Canada and the world in 2015.

Republican-led U. S. Senate sworn in

Newly elected members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will be sworn in on Jan. 3. The Republican Party will control both houses of Congress at that point, and are expected to challenge almost every White House initiative.

Republican leaders have said one of the first things they will do is pass a resolution in support of the Keystone XL pipeline and, if necessary, try to overcome President Obama's veto power, which will require two-thirds' support in the Senate.

Pluto mission 

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has already been successfully awakened from hibernation on its way toward Pluto. The probe will provide a glimpse of the far reaches of our solar system during the first half of 2015. 

The piano-sized spacecraft will begin distant observations of the dwarf planet on Jan. 15, and continue delivering that data until late July. The closest approach to Pluto is expected on July 14.

The mission, which was launched in 2006, will gather data on Pluto's geology, topography, surface composition and temperature, as well as details about its large moon, Charon.

A new Manitoba premier?

Greg Selinger may be premier of Manitoba, but his party requires him to win the next NDP leadership contest if he wants to keep the job. That vote will take place at the party's convention in Winnipeg March 6 to 8. 

Selinger has been dealing with a cabinet revolt, which may be connected to the NDP trailing the Conservatives in the polls for the past two years.

Mike Duffy on trial

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy is scheduled to go on trial to face 31 fraud and bribery charges from April 7 to June 19. The case relates to his Senate housing and travel expense claims, and a $90,000 "gift" that Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, gave Duffy.

The trial could feature a veritable who’s who of Stephen Harper’s inner circle. Duffy’s lawyer hasn’t ruled out calling the prime minister himself to testify. 

A royal birth

The birth of Prince George's first sibling is expected around April. That child will become fourth in line to the throne, right behind his older brother George.

April is a busy month for the Royal Family. Not only does it feature William and Kate’s fourth wedding anniversary, Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 89th birthday on April 21.

By the way, if the Queen still reigns on Sept. 10, she’ll surpass Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

U.K. general election 

British voters are expected to go the polls on May 7. That is, if provisions in the U.K.'s 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments act are followed. Under the Act, the current parliament gets dissolved on March 30.

However, the U.K. parliament can order an earlier vote.

The latest polls have the governing Conservative and opposition Labour parties running neck-and-neck. The big change in support has been the plunge by the second party in the government coalition, the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, the right-wing UK Independence Party has gone from three per cent in the 2010 election to the mid-teens in the latest British polls.

FIFA Women's World Cup

The 24 top women's soccer teams take part in the FIFA Women's World Cup tournament, which opens in Edmonton with Canada vs. China on June 6.

The final match happens July 5 in Vancouver. Teams will also play in Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg. 

The tournament is currently the subject of a lawsuit by a group of players who allege FIFA discriminates against women by forcing them to play on artificial turf that carries a higher risk of injury, rather than on grass which is required for the men's tournament.

Pan Am Games

Thousands of athletes will descend on southern Ontario this summer for the Pan American and Parapan American Games.

The Pan Am Games take place July 7 to 26, with the Parapan Games following on Aug. 7-15.

Events will be held at 34 different venues across southern Ontario, from the Niagara region north to Orillia. The ever-expanding budget and taxpayer-funded perks for Games' executives have brought controversy in the lead-up to the games.

A torch relay through major cities across Canada and more than 100 Ontario towns will kick off the event.

David Letterman retires

In April 2014, David Letterman announced he would be retiring as host of The Late Show in 2015. That's expected to happen in August, when his current CBS contract ends.

Although the exact date isn't public, we do know that Stephen Colbert, former host of the Colbert Report, will replace Letterman.

Paul Shaffer, the Canada-born band leader on The Late Show, said in November that he won't be retiring.

Federal election in Canada

Canada's next federal election should take place on Oct. 19, according to the law on fixed election dates. If that happens, it will be the first fixed-date federal election.

However, the Prime Minister could ask the Governor General to call the election for another date.

If the federal election is held on or about Oct. 19, scheduled elections in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be moved to April 2016, to avoid overlapping election campaign periods. The Northwest Territories legislature has requested that their elections, scheduled for Oct. 5, be moved a full one year later. The federal government must approve that request.

Under Manitoba's election act, if the date of the federal election hasn't changed by Jan. 1, that provincial election date shifts to April 19, 2016.

Expect a general election in Newfoundland and Labrador on or before Sept. 26, 2015.

Marty McFly, Doc Brown go Back to the Future

In the 1989 film Back to the Future, Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) time travel to Oct. 21, 2015.

Plans to stage a musical in London's West End to mark the original Back to the Future movie's 30th anniversary next year have been delayed until 2016, but next summer London will have it's own version of Hill Valley, Marty's hometown in the films. That will happen July 24 to Aug. 10, in conjunction with a screening of the original film by Secret Cinema.

Starting in Switzerland in May there will be orchestras performing the Back to the Future soundtrack during film screenings. The original score by Alan Silvestri has been edited out of the film for the event and "Silvestri is preparing 15 minutes of new score exclusively for these special presentations," according to Variety.

Elections in Spain

In Spain, a  new left-wing party, Podemos, now leads in the polls. If Podemos remains in the lead until elections set to take place before Dec. 20, and possibly as early as October, it could mean a huge change in a country still reeling from the economic crisis and widespread political corruption.

Since 1982, Spain has been ruled by either the right wing Popular Party, now in office, or the Socialist party. 

Star Wars episode 7 debuts

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh episode in the epic film series, is to be released on Dec. 18.

The first teaser trailer was released in November and the rumours and unconfirmed leaks are flying. Force Awakens is said to be the darkest episode to date and Finn, the character played by John Boyega, is supposed to be the new Luke Skywalker.

J.J. Abrams directs the new film.