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Canada Modern History

In 1931 Canada became an independent state. The time after World War II was characterized by rapid industrialization, economic growth and the growth of a welfare system. Until 2006, the power switched between the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party. From the 1960s, a strong separatist movement began to gain momentum in Québec. In 1994, the separatists lost a referendum on independence by a small margin. From the 1990s, right-wing populist parties began to strengthen their position in Western Canada. In 2003, two bourgeois parties merged in the Conservative Party, which came to rule the country from 2006 to 2015, when the Liberals regained power.

The transition to independence became peaceful. In 1926, the United Kingdom granted Canada the right to conduct international negotiations on its own. After talks in London, in 1931, Canada gained the status of a completely independent state. The Canadian federal state was completed as late as 1949, when Newfoundland decided to join after a referendum.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Canada. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Industrialization started in earnest after the Second World War. During the post-war period, the economy expanded considerably and in the 1950s immigration from Europe took off. The Liberal Party ruled the country from 1935 to 1957, when the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) took over.

Liberals take power, worry in Quebec

In 1963, the Liberals returned to power. Under Prime Minister Lester Pearson (1963-1968), a policy was aimed at keeping the large country together, while laying the foundations for today's welfare state. General health care was introduced and the provinces were forced into radical reforms in the education and social sectors.

In 1968, charismatic Pierre Elliot Trudeau took over as Liberal Prime Minister. Trudeau's criticism of US bombings of North Vietnam led to strained contacts with the United States. Canada received thousands of US arms refusers and deserters. The Liberal government also pursued a protectionist trade policy to prevent foreign, mainly US, companies from buying Canadian companies.

Contemporary History of CanadaOne of the first problems that Trudeau faced was the growing separatist movement in Québec. In the early 1960s, the so-called Quiet Revolution was started in Quebec. The province was then economically disadvantaged and the business world was dominated by English speakers. The Liberal provincial government implemented reforms to strengthen the position of French-Canadians and to modernize Québec, including through educational initiatives. The reforms contributed to the emergence of a French-speaking middle class and helped to strengthen self-esteem and nationalism in the province.

The changes had been forced because of social unrest in Quebec. To bring the province closer to the federation, Trudeau passed a language law that made the French the official language alongside the English. At the same time, the rules on taxes paid by the provinces to the federal government were changed, so that Quebec paid less and recovered more than before. Despite this, the conflict intensified. In 1970, the Québec Liberation Front (FLQ) was formed, which kidnapped and murdered the provincial labor minister and carried out several bomb attacks. In 1970, Trudeau introduced exceptional laws and imprisoned hundreds of people in Quebec to fight the extremists. The authorities' hard methods strengthened the position of the separatists.

In 1976, the separatist Quebec Party (PQ) won the provincial election with the promise of holding a referendum on independence in Quebec. PQ pleaded for political independence but wanted to keep the economic ties to the rest of the country. In the 1980 vote, separatists clearly lost.

Problems to agree on new constitution

During his time in power, Trudeau expanded the federal government's power at the expense of the provinces. Health care and other social services were expanded in all provinces with the help of government grants. The government raised taxes on oil exports and introduced wage and price controls. However, dissatisfaction with the Liberals grew and for a short period of 1979-1980 the country was ruled by the PCP.

In 1981, Trudeau succeeded in agreeing with all provinces, except Quebec, to give Canada its own constitution. At the same time, he pushed through two amendments to the constitution, which were supported by the English-speaking provinces, but which were rejected by Québec.

The Conservative Party is taking over

In 1984 Trudeau resigned as party leader. In the fall of that year, the PCP, led by Brian Mulroney, won the federal election. The new government privatized state-owned enterprises, removed the barriers for foreign investors and cut into the social programs introduced by the Liberals.

Mulroney also wanted to get a solution to the "Quebec issue". Québec made several demands to approve the new constitution. In 1987, Mulroney succeeded in getting all provincial leaders to accept the Meech Lake agreement, which went to Quebec. In return, Québec promised to approve the constitution. The agreement was criticized from some quarters for giving too much influence to Québec, while not giving the indigenous people the same protection as the French-speaking Canadians. The agreement went into the grave in 1990 when it was not approved by the provincial parliaments of Manitoba and Newfoundland. In Quebec, parties that had not previously advocated separatism began to speak of independence.

Mulroney also began negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United States. The opposition to the agreement was great from the unions who feared that Canadian companies would not cope with US competition. Mulroney made the free trade agreement a key issue in the 1988 election. He won the election and the free trade agreement was signed.

The government's problem with separatism in Quebec continued. In 1992, a new settlement was concluded, the Charlottetown Agreement, which was approved by the leaders of the three largest parties and all provincial leaders. Under the agreement, Quebec would receive special status and more powers, but other provinces would also gain more power at the federal government's expense. In a referendum in the fall of 1992, 54 percent of voters voted against the agreement.

The recession, the separatists are losing ground

In the late 1980s, Canada went into a recession and unemployment rose and dissatisfaction with the government grew. In the November 1993 parliamentary elections, the PCP received only two seats. Power was taken over by the Liberals, led by Jean Chrétien, while the separatist Québec bloc (BQ) became the largest opposition party.

Since the Québec Party (PQ) had won the provincial elections in Québec in 1994, a new referendum on independence was held, which the separatists lost by barely a margin.

In the middle of the 1990s, Chrétien initiated a restructuring of the state finances, which among other things reduced the allocations to the provinces and the public sector was slimmed down. After a few years, the economy turned upwards and the Liberal government was able to show good growth and a surplus in the state's finances, while provinces and municipalities found it difficult to meet their commitments.

Right-wing populism is strengthened

The Liberals also won the elections in 1997 and could again form government. Now, the right-wing populist Reform Party, based in western Canada, became the largest opposition party.

Chrétien tried to create rules for how to withdraw from the federation. In 1998, all provinces except Québec agreed on a declaration recognizing Québec's unique character. They agreed that all constitutional changes made to the provinces' powers would include all provinces. Later, the Supreme Court ruled that no province can unilaterally leave the federation without first negotiating with the Ottawa government. HD also said that deliberations must be started if a clear majority of the people of Quebec voted for this.

New elections were announced in the autumn of 2000. A pressured Prime Minister had to take on some of the blame for cuts in healthcare. The Liberals attacked their main opponent the Canadian Alliance, which had been formed that year through a merger of the Reform Party and several small right-wing parties, whose leaders were portrayed as a Christian fundamentalist whose goal was to sabotage the Canadian welfare state. The Liberals managed to retain power, but it was mostly because the opposition was so divided.

In 2003, Chrétien resigned. He was succeeded by Finance Minister Paul Martin. At the same time, the PCP merged with the Canadian Alliance in the Conservative Party.

Most judges thought Martin would quickly announce new elections to obtain his own mandate as prime minister, but before that was held, the OAG revealed a corruption scandal with ramifications into the Liberal Party. The re-election therefore delayed in June 2004. The Liberals played on the voters' fears that the Conservatives would save on welfare. Conservative leader Stephen Harper pledged more money to the defense and lower taxes, but also took advantage of the discontent brought by the corruption deal. The Liberals became the largest party, but lost their majority in Parliament. The Conservatives got 30 percent of the vote and both BQ and the Social Democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) went strong.

A liberal minority government took office in July 2004, with the support of BQ and NDP. However, the corruption scandal continued to create problems for Martin. The deal involved more than $ 200 million that the federal government had invested in an advertising campaign to promote "national unity" in Quebec after the 1995 referendum. The advertising agency that received the assignment had hardly done any work at all and much of the money had gone to the Liberals party fund.

The government appointed an inquiry led by Judge John Gomery. In it, Martin was freed from all suspicions of involvement, but part of the blame was laid with Chrétien.

After a quarrel about health policy, the NDP withdrew its support for the government. In November 2005, it lost a vote of no confidence and a new election was announced in January 2006.

Conservative minority governments

In the election campaign, the Conservative leader Harper drew closer to the political center than before and toned down his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. He emphasized the need for better relations with the United States. Martin, for his part, gave great importance to the good economy.

The election was won by the Conservative Party, which however did not get its own majority in the lower house.

Stephen Harper formed a minority government that had difficulty getting through his proposals in the House of Commons, but it managed to stay in power as the Liberals cast their votes in several House votes. Finally, Harper chose to announce new elections in the fall of 2008.

During the election campaign, the opposition criticized the prime minister for not acting sufficiently forcefully to counter the effects of the international financial crisis. Harper, for his part, argued that the country's economy was good. The Conservatives won the election, but had to form a new minority government.

In December 2008, the opposition planned a distrust vote against the government, citing that it had done too little to counter the recession that had now become noticeable even in Canada. The government pleaded for a austerity policy while the other parties advocated stimulus measures. If the government had fallen, the Liberals, NDP and BQ together could have taken power with their own majority in the lower house. However, Prime Minister Michaëlle Jean had to postpone the next session of the House of Commons until January 2009. The air went out of the opposition and Harper could remain.

But Harper still had difficulty pushing through his policies. The Liberals promised to support the government's budget if it contained a stimulus package. Several observers pointed out that the economy was strong after all and that the stimulus measures were largely implemented to appease the opposition. In the late summer of 2009, however, the Liberals decided to withdraw their support for the government, but Harper won time by making concessions to BQ and NDP.

When neither the NDP, the Liberals nor the BQ approved the budget for 2011/2012, the government fell into a distrust vote in March 2011. The three parties were critical that the government had failed to report the full cost of a crime program, as well as lower corporate taxes and possible purchase of new combat plan from the USA. Harper announced new elections until May 2.

The re-election in May 2011 was won by the Conservative Party, which received 166 of the 308 seats. The NDP became the second largest party with 103 seats, ahead of the Liberals who only got 34 seats. BQ was allowed to retain only four of its 47 seats. The NDP's upswing was largely due to the party's success in Quebec.

Harper makes a turn to the right

After the 2011 election victory, Harper was able to start pursuing his heart issues as lower corporate taxes, a strong defense and more law and order. The government also began to shift responsibility from the federal level to the provinces, including in the environmental field.

The Liberals and the separatist Quebec Bloc (BQ) changed party leaders after the election. The government was also strengthened by the fact that the Canadian economy has performed so well through the international financial crisis and recession compared to many other Western countries.

After the 2006 election, environmental and climate issues had played a major role in the debate and for some years the government had tried to show a more green profile than before. But now that foot changed and Canada withdrew from the Kyoto agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The government pushed through its new policy by putting together legislative proposals in packages - with the omnibus prefix - which Parliament must either approve or reject in its entirety. Harper was criticized for limiting the possibilities of analyzing and debating the issues by clumping together proposals from widely different areas.

In March 2012, the so-called omnibus C-12 was approved, which meant, among other things, that the penalty for a number of crimes was sharpened (serious drug, violence and sexual crimes) and the courts' ability to sentence conditional punishment was limited. Later, asylum legislation was also tightened.

Two more major legislative packages were approved in connection with the budget in June and December 2012. This changed the regulations to make it easier to push through large energy projects, small businesses got tax breaks, stricter rules were introduced for unemployment benefits and the appropriations for culture and the environment were lowered. Amendments were also made to the law governing the conditions of Native Americans living in the reserve. It would be easier to rent land belonging to a reserve and the protection of water resources was limited, which caused protests from the indigenous peoples (see Indigenous peoples' rights).

In the second half of 2012, signs were that the economy was stagnating, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty chose to pursue a strict policy that the state budget should be in balance by 2015.

Spring 2013 marked a fresh start for the Liberals, who elected Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as new leader. Initially, he was criticized for not clearly showing what policy he wanted to pursue and for lacking political experience.

In October 2014, the government decided that Canada should participate in the international action against the Islamic State militant group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. In 2015, the effort was extended to Syria as well. Shortly thereafter, Canada was shaken by two terrorist attacks that claimed two lives. The following year, a new law against terrorism was adopted, which received sharp criticism from several directions as it contained restrictions on a number of civil rights (see Political system and Calendar).

The Liberals win the election

In August 2015, Harper announced elections until October of that year. Opinion polls indicated a smooth run between the Conservative Party, the Liberals and the NDP. The electoral movement was initially dominated by economic issues, not least when the statistics showed that the country's GDP fell during the first half of the year (see Economic overview). Later, the issue of whether Canada would receive more attention from Syrian refugees, as did the Conservative Party's attempt to emphasize what it called Canadian values ​​(at the same time the party was weakened by several corruption deals). Justin Trudeau was able to run a positive campaign, promising to unite both the country and create "real change".

Even before all votes were counted, it was clear that the Liberals had won the election and that Trudeau would become the new prime minister. The Conservative Party became the second largest party, while the NDP was pushed down to third place.

 
 

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