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10-08-2015, 22:30

CANADA: IN THE SHADOW OF GOLIATH

Canada experienced many of the same developments as the United States in the postwar years. For twenty-five years after World War II, Canada realized extraordinary economic prosperity as it set out on a new path of industrial development. Canada had always had a strong export economy based on its abundant natural resources. Now it also developed electronic, aircraft, nuclear, and chemical engineering industries on a large scale. Much of the Canadian growth, however, was financed by capital from the United States, which resulted in U.S. ownership of Canadian businesses. While many Canadians welcomed the economic growth, others feared U.S. economic domination of Canada and its resources. Canada’s close relationship with the United States has been a notable feature of its postwar history. In addition to fears of economic domination, Canadians have also worried about playing a subordinate role politically and militarily to their neighboring superpower. Canada agreed to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and even sent military contingents to fight in Korea the following year. But to avoid subordination to the United States or any other great power, Canada has consistently and actively supported the United Nations. Nevertheless, concerns about the United States have not kept Canada from maintaining a special relationship with its southern neighbor. The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), formed in 1957, was based on close cooperation between the air forces of the two countries for the defense of North America against mis- sile attack. As another example of their close cooperation, in 1972, Canada and the United States signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to regulate water quality of the lakes that border both countries. After 1945, the Liberal Party continued to dominate Canadian politics until 1957, when John Diefenbaker (1895–1979) achieved a Conservative victory. But a major recession returned the Liberals to power, and under Lester Pearson (1897–1972), they created Canada’s welfare state by enacting a national social security system (the Canada Pension Plan) and a national health insurance program. The most prominent Liberal government, however, was that of Pierre Trudeau (1919–2000), who came to power in 1968. Although French Canadian in background, Trudeau was dedicated to Canada’s federal union. In 1968, his government passed the Official Languages Act, creating a bilingual federal civil service and encouraging the growth of French culture and language in Canada. Although Trudeau’s government vigorously pushed an industrialization program, high inflation and Trudeau’s efforts to impose the will of the federal government on the powerful provincial governments alienated voters and weakened his government. For Canada, the vigor of the U.S. economy in the 1980s and 1990s was a mixed blessing, for the American behemoth was all too often inclined to make use of its power to have its way with its neighbors. Economic recession had brought Brian Mulroney (b. 1939), leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, to power in Canada in 1984. Mulroney’s government sought to privatize many of Canada’s state-run corporations and negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States. Bitterly resented by many Canadians as a sellout, the agreement cost Mulroney’s government much of its popularity. In 1993, the ruling Conservatives were drastically defeated in national elections, winning only two seats in the House of Commons. The Liberal leader, Jean Chrétien, took over as prime minister with the charge of stimulating the nation’s sluggish economy. The new Liberal government also faced an ongoing crisis over the French-speaking province of Quebec. In the late 1960s, the Parti Québécois, headed by René Lévesque, campaigned on a platform of Quebec’s secession from the Canadian confederation. In 1970, the party won 24 percent of the popular vote in Quebec’s provincial elections. To pursue their dream of separation, some underground separatist groups even used terrorist bombings and kidnapped two prominent government officials. In 1976, the Parti Québécois won Quebec’s provincial elections and in 1980 called for a referendum that would enable the provincial government to negotiate Quebec’s independence from the rest of Canada. But voters in Quebec rejected the plan in 1995, and debate over Quebec’s status continued to divide Canada as the decade came to a close. Provincial elections held in April 2003 delivered a stunning defeat to the Parti Québécois and a decisive victory to federalist elements.

 

 

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