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A trio of big developments head up the 2017 political calendar, not the least of which is the election of new leaders for our two major opposition parties.

There's a considerable irony here. The Conservatives and the New Democrats already have their best pilots in place. But interim Tory leader Rona Ambrose isn't running and Tom Mulcair was rashly given his walking papers after just one election campaign in which he was taken down by ill fortune as much as anything else.

Other potentially strong candidates have declined to enter their respective races. Without Peter MacKay, Brad Wall, James Moore, the Conservatives are left with thin gruel. Their turtle derby – count your lucky stars Justin Trudeau – features a dozen or more candidates, most of whom Canadians have never heard of.

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Some of the contenders are on the far-right fringe of the party. "It's great," one Liberal wag has said. "If one of them wins, we hit the crackpot!"

For the New Democrats, Nathan Cullen is the cocksure fellow who could lead the party back from its return to the wilderness. He bowed out of the running, though he might be pressured to return, as did Megan Leslie, another potential electorate charmer.

Big deal number two in 2017 is the celebration of the country's 150th anniversary. It will be Canada on stilts, the biggest bash since the 100th celebration highlighted by Expo 67. For the 150th, there is much to toast – if not because of Canada's own progress, noteworthy in some respects, then certainly by comparison to the cascade of others.

Much of the rest of the G7 membership is in a state of upheaval, whether it be from terrorism, nativism, shock results in elections.

By contrast Mr. Trudeau can relish this country's solid standing. The hundredth anniversary was followed by four decades of tensions and unity stresses with Quebec and the West. Those tensions are gone. The union is more entrenched. There is cause for more than just ritualistic bluster.

For any political leader – count your lucky stars again, Prime Minister – being at the helm at the time of a patriotic windfall is a bonus and Justin Trudeau is tailor-made to take advantage.

He faces a difficult year two. His Liberals are slipping in popularity. They don't have big policy initiatives to roll out like in year one. They face messes they created for themselves on the cash-for-access rhubarb and the electoral reform file. Friction with the provinces could come over carbon pricing, the Trans Mountain pipeline, a new health accord.

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As a patriotic diversion, the 150th could serve as a fine prop for Mr. Trudeau's politics. But in his approach he needs to be bipartisan. If he politicizes it he invites folly. The other parties should be put front and centre. The country's foremost architect was Tory John A. Macdonald. The NDP's Tommy Douglas was an important force.

Big item number three on the calendar will be the relationship with a volatile United States. The assumption is that Donald Trump, given his anti-liberal views on trade, the environment, foreign relations, could make life onerous for the Prime Minister. It's not necessarily the case. In the past, PMs have politically benefited in Canada from presidents of low repute. They simply have to stand up to them, do the David versus Goliath routine.

That might not be necessary. Mr. Trump's protectionist thrusts are likely to target others more than Canada. NAFTA is not about to be dismantled. The Keystone XL pipeline is likely to get the go-ahead. The American economy is moving out of the doldrums and Mr. Trump plans on boosting it more with tax cuts and big infrastructure outlays. Canada's low dollar could finally result in export dividends.

The Canadian Trump effect might not be so bad. With the world on edge, with nativism breaking out all over, chances are Canada – count your blessings one more time Prime Minister – will be looked to as the safe and sound haven. Even more so at 150 than 100.

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