In the first show of 2012, the CTV Question Period news panel offered a series of predictions -- or best guesses -- for the coming year that included a possible war in Syria and a collapse of the Chinese housing market.

Question Period co-hosts Craig Oliver and Kevin Newman, Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife, Jane Taber of the Globe and Mail and Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen offered their prognostications.

The forecast included a comment that it was "improbable but possible" Canadian jets would be dropping bombs on Damascus by this time next year.

That sparked a further prediction that such an intervention by NATO would lead to a serious conflict.

"We could have a major Middle East war," one panelist said, adding: "Syria is Iran's puppet state."

Another noted that Syria has a very modern and well-equipped air force and is three times the size of Libya, which would mean that establishing a no-fly zone in that region would be an enormous and difficult challenge.

The second major prediction was that Ottawa and the provinces would clash over money this year, especially after the upcoming spring budget's cuts to federal programs.

"They're looking at programs that don't work anymore," a panelist said of the expected $4 billion in cuts. "We can afford to lose some civil servants."

But other panelists expressed concern that some programs like $1-billion-a-year drug enforcement are never examined to see if they are efficient and that cuts will hinder economic growth.

"The programs they find are no longer useful are groups that don't agree with this Conservative government," one offered.

That carried the panel into a discussion of federal-provincial acrimony over health care – "We need to have a serious conversation about health care in this country."

The issue of the government's crime bill and its unknown cost was raised with a suggestion that the provinces will bristle at the prospect of paying for expanded prisons because of the increase in prisoners.

Asked for possible surprises coming this year, the panelists had a few wide-ranging suggestions:

  • With Europe facing austerity programs, the United States suffocating in debt and China about to burst its real estate bubble, "by this time next year, Canada and the U.S. will be in recession."
  • Unrest in Russia because Vladimir Putin's hold on the country appears to be weakening – "If there's a Russian Spring, that will shake things up."
  • Quebec Premier Jean Charest will resign this year after a long career in politics.
  • Justin Trudeau will run for the leadership of the federal Liberals.
  • "Harmony, peace and love in the House of Commons."

What are your predictions for this year? What are the upcoming issues that will drive news headlines across the country and abroad? Post your thoughts in the comments below.