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.
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.
One 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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.