Canada is a country located in the region of North America. The 2015 parliamentary elections led to a shift in power, when the Liberal Party won its own majority in the lower house. New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s open leadership style and progressive appearance were, for many Canadians, a welcome contrast to the conservative regime under Stephen Harper. Despite declining popularity, the Liberals and Trudeau also managed to win the election in the fall of 2019, but lost their majority in the House of Commons.
At the 2015 entry into power, Trudeau promised both big and fast changes and he had high confidence figures in opinion polls (58 percent in April 2016). The fact that his government consisted of as many women as men became a signal that new times were pervading Canadian politics. The new ministers were also relatively young and several of them came from minority groups.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Canada, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The government’s work was facilitated by the opposition being so weak. Both the Conservative Party and the Social Democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) and the separatist Québec bloc (BQ) changed party leaders in 2017, following drawn-out processes.
During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberal Party and Trudeau talked a lot about strengthening the Canadian middle class. It was also it, and families with low incomes, who would benefit from the tax cuts announced by the government in December 2015, while raising taxes for the richest percentage of the population. A new child allowance was introduced and promises were made of new jobs, not least for young Canadians and more affordable housing. To achieve this, the state would make major investments in infrastructure, encourage technological innovations, increase productivity in working life and facilitate international trade. For two years, the government would allow budget deficits of up to 10 billion Canadian dollars a year and then get the state’s finances in balance from 2019.
Before the election in 2015, the Liberals also great importance to improve conditions for the country’s indigenous peoples (see the rights of indigenous peoples), legalize marijuana, allow euthanasia and strengthen the rights of LGBT -Persons (see Social conditions) as well as increase the transparency of government work. Another important symbolic issue related to refugee policy and Canada received about 40,000 refugees from Syria in just over a year (see Population and Language). Justin Trudeau, who always emphasized the importance of diversity to Canada, personally welcomed the first families to come to the country. However, following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, the government decided to only accept families, especially vulnerable women and gay men from Syria.
On two chairs at the same time
As the gap grew between the government’s promises and what it actually achieved, criticism of the liberal regime grew. Justin Trudeau was accused of trying to sit on two chairs at the same time. The Prime Minister kept a high profile on climate and environmental issues, and one month after the change of power, Canada signed the new climate agreement in Paris. At the same time, he stressed the importance of developing the Canadian energy sector, even though the extraction of oil sands in Alberta makes it difficult for Canada to achieve its climate goals. In 2016, Trudeau gave the go-ahead for the construction of two major oil export pipelines, which faced sharp criticism from environmentalists and some of the indigenous people affected by the construction. The conflicts surrounding the so-called Trans Mountain project showed what sharp conflicts could arise between the provinces and the federal government, when British Columbia’s NDP-led provincial government tried to stop the project citing environmental protection, while Trudeau argued it was a “national interest” issue. In 2018, the government also decided that the state would take over the project so that it would surely get rid of (seeNatural resources, energy and environment).
The efforts made to improve the living conditions of the indigenous peoples have also been criticized for being inadequate. Plans to demolish the most controversial parts of anti-terrorism legislation went slow and were not as far-reaching as the Liberals had promised in the wake of 2015 (see Democracy and Rights). It also took until 2017 for the economy to improve, but that year Canada had the highest growth rates among the G7 countries, according to the IMF. An important bright spot was that employment increased rapidly.
Trudeau often talked about the need for strong ethical rules, but was also accused of thumping them. The state institution that oversees politicians and officials does not violate the country’s ethical laws at the end of 2017 criticized the prime minister for being offered a luxury vacation at the billionaire and philanthropist Aga Khan’s private island in the Caribbean. Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s business has also been the subject of the ethics commissioner’s review (see Calendar).
An even bigger deal broke out in early 2019, when Trudeau, his office and others were accused of exerting pressure on then-Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene to prevent a lawsuit against SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec construction company, which is suspected of corruption in Libya before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Canadian Minister of Justice has the right to intervene to stop a legal process against a company so that no one but the suspects will be affected (ie employees, customers, etc.). The deal led both Wilson-Raybould and then-Budget Minister Jane Philpott to leave the government, and Trudeau was fined for violating the Code of Ethics.
The Liberals are losing ground
In 2017, the government was strengthened by the fact that the Liberal Party also had a strong position at the provincial level, as it sat in power in seven out of ten provinces. Despite this, it sparked some of the cooperation between Ottawa and the provincial governments. When the terms of the federal health care grant were renegotiated, the provinces initially declined the bid, as the grants would be listed at a slower rate than before. The federal government finally managed to circumvent the provinces’ resistance by concluding individual agreements with all provinces (and territories).
The Liberals have gradually lost ground at the provincial level. In 2017, the British Columbia Liberal government fell after losing a vote of no confidence. In June 2018, the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) won the provincial election in Ontario a few months, the Citizens Coalition for the Future of Québec (CAQ) took over power in Québec. In May 2020, the Liberals ruled only in two provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, as well as in the Yukon Territory.
In early 2018, support for the Liberals began to fail even at national level, when the Conservative Party, then led by Andrew Scheer, joined the ruling party in polls. Even a less successful state visit for Trudeau in India 2018 played a big role, but pretty soon the Liberals went over the Conservatives.
New free trade agreement with USA and Mexico
In the fall of 2018, Canada, the United States and Mexico agreed on a new free trade agreement, the USMCA, (see also Foreign Policy and Defense). However, the settlement attracted a lot of criticism at home, including from dairy farmers and several trade unions. The two largest parties in Quebec, the CAQ and the Liberals, also said that the agreement would strike extra hard against the dairy industry in their province. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer criticized the agreement, saying that the United States could boast about what it had achieved while Canada had to measure its success in what it did not have to sacrifice. However, analysts felt it was better to be on the train than to stand completely without a trade agreement with the United States. The agreement was finalized at the end of 2019, but will not enter into force until it has been approved by the parliaments of all three countries. In March 2020, Canada became the last country to give its approval
Parliamentary elections in autumn 2019
On October 21, 2019, the parliamentary elections were held, which many considered a referendum on Prime Minister Trudeau and his four years in power. The election movement became fierce, especially loud was the tone between Trudeau and Scheer.
The Conservative Party received by a marginal margin a larger share of the votes than the Liberals, who nevertheless retained the position of the House’s largest party, thanks to a strong election in Eastern Canada, especially in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, while it was completely without a mandate in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where The Conservative Party traditionally is strong. The big surprise was that the left-leaning Québec block (BQ) received almost a third of all Québec votes. At the same time, the NDP did worse than expected.
At the end of November, Trudeau presented its new minority government. A first consideration was the indigenous people’s protest against the construction of a gas pipeline in British Columbia, which in early 2020 caused train traffic to stop in large parts of the country (see Calendar).
An even more difficult test was the pandemic that broke out shortly thereafter. Much of the country was shut down, a decision to be taken at the provincial level, and Ottawa presented major support packages to mitigate the economic impact of the corona crisis. GDP fell by just over eight percent in the first quarters of 2020. Trudeau became a unifying force, with daily press conferences on the state of the country, and confidence in the government rose again.
By the end of May 2020, around 7,000 people had died in covid-19 in Canada. Ontario and Quebec were hit hardest, especially vulnerable people living in nursing homes in the two provinces.
Read about the ongoing development in the Calendar.
FURTHER READING: learn more about Canada in the UI’s publication Foreign Affairs magazine:
Corona gives Canada’s Trudeau respite from tricky dilemma (May 5, 2020)
FACTS – POLITICS
Canada / Canada
monarchy, federal state
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II 1
Head of government
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2015–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Liberal Party 157, Conservative Party 121, Quebec Block (BQ) 32, New Democratic Party (NDP) 24, Green Party 3 and an independent candidate (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Liberal Party 184, Conservative Party 99, New Democratic Party (NDP) 44, Quebec Block (BQ) 10, Green Party 1 (2015)
68% in the 2015 parliamentary elections, 66% in the 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023
- represented in Canada by Governor-General Julie Payette