Welcome to our Year in Review special issue. It’s been a year of turmoil in markets, tumult in North Africa, and the Occupy movement spreading from Wall Street across North America and around the world.
By contrast, Canada seems like the peaceable kingdom, the perfectly boring place that people have always assumed we were. Nowadays, they look at boring Canada with envy, as a country that’s come through the economic crisis in better shape than any other G7 nation, certainly in much better shape than the United States, in both job creation and fiscal frameworks.
No wonder Canadians are feeling good about themselves and the direction of the country. In his fifth annual Mood of Canada poll for Policy Options, pollster Nik Nanos detects “a Canadian spring.” Nearly two-thirds of Canadians, 63.5 percent, think the country is headed in the right direction. By contrast, three Americans in four, according to a New York Times poll, think their country is headed in the wrong direction.
From BMO Financial Group, Kevin Lynch and Karen Miske take their second annual look at Canada’s economy compared with other countries. Their “global snapshot of Canada” confirms the strength of Canada’s economy on fundamentals such as deficits, debt, the consumer price index, natural resources and even student math and reading scores.
Then Robin Sears has a look at the political year, from Cairo to Canada. Canada saw the election of a majority government in Ottawa and the re-election of five incumbent provincial governments. As for the Occupy movement, he sees it as an important development, one driven largely by youth unemployment resulting from the financial crisis. Nobody on Wall Street went to jail, and all these kids are looking for work. In the US, the youth unemployment rate hovers at around 20 percent, six points higher than in Canada. In parts of Europe, notably Spain and Greece, it hovers at around 40 percent.
In a similar vein, Jeremy Kinsman looks at the world in 2011, and sees the Occupy phenomenon as part of the rising global democracy movement, not aimed at trying to supplant capitalism, but to wrest American democracy back from the special interests who had tried to buy it. Don Lenihan of the Public Policy Forum also considers the Occupy movement, through the prism of engaging the public in the process of public policy. From Ottawa, Geoff Norquay looks at federal-provincial relations in the Harper era, and sees the evolution of “the Harper doctrine,” a classical federalism in which the division of powers in the Constitution is generally respected by Ottawa, resulting in a kind of peace with the provinces.
But Marie Bernard-Meunier, writing of the Harper government’s foreign policy, detects a definite departure from classical Canadian honest-broker diplomacy toward one in which Canada takes sides, notably with Israel in the Middle East.
Colin Robertson looks at the year in Canada-US relations, one in which the Beyond the Border initiative is taking shape and should be ready for approval by the Prime Minister and President Barack Obama at their meeting in Washington in December. Obama’s decision to kick the Keystone XL pipeline project down the road past next November’s election is a complication.
And that race for the White House is the focus for presidential historian Gil Troy, who looks ahead to 2012 and wonders if the Republicans can settle on a relatively moderate candidate such as Mitt Romney, who would likely make it a more competitive race against Obama.
From Toronto, Catherine Cano looks back at the year in the media, also from Tahrir Square to Tripoli. From Quebec, Jean-Herman Guay looks back at a tumultuous year that saw the virtual disappearance of the Bloc Québécois from the federal scene, and a massive shift of support away from the Parti québécois to the new Coalition Avenir Québec. Change is in the air. From Saskatoon, Daniel Béland reviews the year in the West. McGill University’s Karl Moore and Kaylann Knickle consider the importance of Steve Jobs, whose genius changed the world.
In our Book Excerpt from Elusive Destiny, a new biography of John Turner, Paul Litt tells the riveting inside story of the 1988 free trade election, in which Turner faced not only the formidable campaigner who was Brian Mulroney, but also a plot by highly placed Liberals to oust their leader in mid-campaign and replace him with Jean Chrétien. David Herle reviews the book.
Renée Filiatrault considers Chris Alexander’s The Long Way Back, and finds it a compelling first draft of the history of the last decade in Afghanistan, where Alexander served as Canada’s ambassador and later a senior official for the UN. He’s now a first-term MP who is clearly marked for higher things in the Conservative government.
Michael Behiels looks at Ron Graham’s The Last Act, about the making of the constitutional deal of 1981. and finds his portraits of the central players are quite superb.” Meanwhile Bob Plamondon reviews Conrad Black’s A Matter of Principle, and finds it an exquisite revenge on Black’s tormentors. Charles McMillan looks at That Used to Be Us, by Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, and concludes that we should not count America out.
Finally we note with sadness the passing of our Founding Editor, Tom Kent. He was a giant of Canadian public policy, and we’ll pay appropriate tribute to him in our next issue.