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EDITORIAL: New year, new opportunities

As Nova Scotians gathered together to give 2016 the heave-ho – a year that's been oft referred to as one of the worst in decades — many anxiously awaited 2017 as it heralds a chance for a fresh start.

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For many, 2016 was a year fraught with hardship and confusion. It was a year that was topsy-turvy, where expected outcomes didn't materialize. It was a year of saying goodbye to beloved friends — both real and fictional — and adjusting to living in a state of constant uncertainty.

Weltschmerz, the German word meaning world-weariness or melancholy, is as apropos as it gets when trying to sum up 2016.

It was the year when, despite vast amounts of polling research, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States of America, and the majority — albeit a small majority — of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

It was the year when celebrity deaths occurred at such a frequency that fans were at a loss for words. Prince. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Nancy Reagan. Muhammad Ali. Leonard Cohen. George Michael. Carrie Fisher — the list goes on.

It was a year that was rife with turmoil. We watched as terrorist attacks unfolded overseas and localized plots were foiled. We watched as the humanitarian crisis in Syria intensified, as Albertans fled their homes due to raging wildfires, as the fear of diseases like Zika spread. We watched as the political landscape changed with our neighbours to the south, and witnessed how ugly political campaigns can be.

A new public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute confirms that Canadians largely felt 2016 was the pits. A whopping 63 per cent viewed 2016 as negative for the world as a whole and 65 per cent felt it was bad for the United States. When asked individually if 2016 was a bad year, 31 per cent respondents said it was while 31 per cent thought it had been a good year.

While we can dwell on 2016 being a downer of a year, it had moments when the glimmer of humanity shone brightly. Countless people helped the Fort McMurray evacuees, or those facing similar weather-related calamities in Nova Scotia and beyond. People stepped up in droves to support a variety of causes this year, from local food banks and hootenannies, to sending Christmas cards to a child dying of cancer.

Canada welcomed Syrian refugees with open arms, showing the world a positive, effective, more streamlined approach to handling such requests.

As we embark on the remaining 360-plus days of 2017, let's strive to make them the best days possible.

On the home front, we're already seeing municipal leaders ready and willing to work together. We're seeing people stepping up to volunteer with various groups and organizations. We're seeing the general public take an interest in what's happening not just worldwide, but within our borders as well.

There is reason to be optimistic, if not realistic. 2017 is here. Let's work together to make 2016 seem like a distant memory.

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