056_G18_Canada

Global_18

In Focus Canada Natural resources help Canada bounce back from recession Canada has one of the largest and most developed economies in the world. What was until the early 20th century a predominantly agricultural economy has now given way to a highly industrialised economy with one of the world’s highest per capita income rates. The country has extensive natural resources and is among the world’s leading exporters of uranium, nickel and zinc and a major producer of aluminium, copper and gold. There are large oil and gas reserves, which were estimated in January 2013 to equal 174 billion barrels of oil and two trillion cubic metres of gas. Canadian economic links with the USA were initially brought about by the Free Trade Agreement of 1989, which was subsequently enlarged to include Mexico under the North So this is the steady drumbeat behind any tunes the Harper government is singing about making things better – whether it’s their promises to take the nation’s fi nances out of defi cit, to bring in more “consumerfriendly” legislation or secure Canada’s American Free Trade Agreement. High fi scal defi cits in the 1980s led to the decision by federal and provincial governments to begin privatising state assets. This began with the privatisation of Air Canada in the late 1980s, with rail networks Uranium, nickel and zinc are important exports per cent since 2011. e average lifespan of governments in Canada is ten years – a statistic that is lifting the spirits of the opposition New Democratic and Liberal parties and dampening the backon track aspirations of the ruling Conservatives future prosperity through oil-sands and pipeline developments. Meanwhile, the opposition New Democrats (NDP) and Liberals are locked in their own struggle to be seen as the most likely successor to the Conservatives. If politics is a battle of hearts and minds, it seems that the Liberals are gambling heavily on passion, while the NDP, under the steely focus of leader Thomas Mulcair, is concentrating on steady, measured, strategic gain. Mulcair, who has turned the House of Commons into a courtroom with sharp, harsh questioning on the Senate scandal, says his party will be the champions of “affordability” for stretched Canadian households in the next election. The Liberals, who governed Canada for much of the 20th century – only to be reduced to third-party status in the 2011 election – have pinned huge hopes on new leader Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the closest thing the country has to a rock-star, celebrity politician. Though not a parliamentary performer in Mulcair’s league, Trudeau instead is casting himself as an outsider-type politician who will shake things up – stunning the capital in late January, for instance, with a decision to fi re all Liberal senators and ban these long-time, unelected loyalists from any offi cial roles in party organisation. Canadian Pacifi c and Canadian National Railway following in the mid-1990s. The 1990s further saw strong growth for the country, particularly in exports and the services sector. But in 2008, when the world economic downturn caused the collapse of investments and exports, Canada’s economy quickly fell into recession. The country’s economic recovery began in 2010 with an overall growth of 3.2 per cent, and with steady growth experienced in the years that followed. Most recently, 2013 showed economic growth of a steady 1.7 per cent. The unemployment rate, which had fallen below six per cent in 2007, averaged eight per cent in 2010, and has remained above seven It was a body blow to the 32 senators cut loose by Trudeau, but it was hailed by friends and grudging foes alike as a powerful act of symbolism in Canada’s ongoing saga over the unelected Senate. One of the exiled senators, Charlie Watt, was even appointed by Trudeau’s late father. “This wasn’t about short term,” Trudeau said in an interview a few days after his surprise announcement. “It was very much about making sure that we have a parliamentary democracy that is effective in the 21st century for Canadians in a practical way.” Polls in Canada have notoriously been, embarrassingly wrong over several elections in recent years, overestimating challenges to ruling parties and underestimating the extent to which Canadian voters have tuned out of politics altogether. At this point, with polls showing all parties with varying claims to one-third or so of the population, it is not unreasonable to imagine a win for the Conservatives, New Democrats or Liberals when Canadians go to the polls in 2015 (or sooner). For Harper, that means getting beyond the PMO-Senate scandal. For Mulcair and the NDP, it means persuading voters to trust power to a party that has never held it federally before. For Trudeau, it means demonstrating that he’s a serious, heavyweight politician and that the Liberals are not the party they were in the 20th century. Or, to put it in the lyrical language of the Beatles, it’s all about taking a sad song and making it better. 56 l www.global -br ief ing.org second quar ter 2014 global  Susan Delacourt is the senior political writer for the Toronto Star. Based in Ottawa, she has been covering federal politics for more than Stephen Harper two decades © PMO photo: Jill Thompson


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