As the year draws to a close, it's worth looking back at some of the public policy issues that made headlines over the past 12 months, and that have a good chance of being in the news during the next 12 as well. Here are three such issues that matter to the wealth and well-being of Canadians going forward.
1. Corporate Subsidies: Bombardier Will Be Back for More
After securing the Quebec government's assistance in October 2015, to the tune of a $1.3-billion "investment" in the company's CSeries aircraft, multinational aerospace and transportation company Bombardier set its sights on the federal government in 2016. A deal has not yet been struck with Ottawa, but Brazil, home to rival Embraer, has just announced it plans to launch a WTO challenge over the company's government support.
Will 2017 be the year when the federal government cuts corporate subsidies?
As my colleague Mathieu Bédard argued earlier this year, such experiments in "state capitalism" have a poor track record. Furthermore, they put taxpayer's funds at risk without their consent. Will 2017 be the year when the federal government cuts corporate subsidies and tells companies like Bombardier that they have to fly under their own power?
2. Oil Pipelines: let the market decide
The federal government recently gave the green light to the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline connecting Edmonton, Alta. to Burnaby, B.C., and to the project to replace Enbridge's Line 3 between Hardisty, Alta. and Superior, Wis. This is good news for the Canadian economy, but at the same time, the government is asking the National Energy Board (NEB) to reject a third pipeline, the Northern Gateway project.
Looking ahead, the NEB hearings for a fourth project, TransCanada's Energy East pipeline to bring Alberta oil to New Brunswick, needs to be restarted as soon as possible. Despite the opinion of certain vocal opponents like Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, the recent approvals do not mean Energy East is no longer needed.
As my colleague Youri Chassin recently wrote, just because Alberta oil will soon have an easier time getting to the Pacific Coast and the U.S. Midwest doesn't mean it no longer needs to get to the Atlantic. It's up to market actors to determine if a particular project is economically worthwhile. Let's hope they get the chance to do so in 2017.
3. Health Care: It's Not about the Money
With Ottawa and the provinces having just failed to reach a deal on health spending, many Canadian patients may be wondering what 2017 will hold for them, as federal health transfer increases are set to revert to three per cent per year as of April 1. These transfers had been increasing at an annual rate of six per cent since the last health accord was reached with former Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004.
Yet more money is not the cure for what ails Canadian health care. Fundamental reforms are needed to implement the kinds of changes that have proven successful in other OECD countries. For instance, over a decade ago, Germany began requiring all hospitals to publish structured quality reports every two years in order to provide more transparency and facilitate evidence-based decisions.
Yet more money is not the cure for what ails Canadian health care.
This kind of transparency leads to continuous improvements in the quality of medical treatment. Other reforms would complement this one, like funding hospitals based on services rendered and giving them greater administrative autonomy.
As our country marks its 150th anniversary, Canadians have a lot to be thankful for, it's true. But that doesn't mean we should be complacent. Reining in the corporate subsidy beast, developing our energy resources responsibly and proactively, and learning from other countries' best health-care practices would be three great ways to celebrate this special birthday.
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