21st Century Canadian History
Obviously, attempting to write anything definitive about 21st century Canadian history is ridiculously premature. We’re only entering the century’s second decade, after all, and a lot will no doubt happen in the remaining eight. But it may still be useful to review a few current events, just to bring us fully up to date.
The 2000s So Far…
The early 2000s saw Canada’s political situation stabilize after two decades of turmoil. A lot of scary movements that seemed intense in the eighties or nineties simply fizzled out, and suddenly became boring non-issues.
After spending decades obsessing over the question of secession from Canada, Quebecers in 2003 voted decisively to cast their separatist government, led by the Parti Quebecois, out of power, in an outcome many analysts attributed to growing “separation fatigue” with the nationalist issue. That same fatigue was later reconfirmed in the federal election of 2011, when almost every Quebec separatist candidate running for a seat in the Canadian parliament was soundly defeated, reducing the separatist caucus in the House of Commons from 47 to only four. In such a context, a third referendum on French-Canadian independence seems further away than ever.
Canada’s two conservative political parties — Reform and the Progressive Conservatives — merged in 2003, and in 2006, Stephen Harper (b. 1959), a man whose political origins traced back to the western protest movement of the 1980s, became the first right-of-centre Canadian prime minister in over a decade. After three terms in office, he lost a 2015 bid for a fourth term to Liberal Justin Trudeau (b. 1971), the charismatic son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (b. 1919-2000).
Already underway in the late 1990s, the information revolution of the early 21st century brought enormous change to the lives of Canadians, with personal computers, cell phones and the Internet becoming must-haves across the country. Just as the dawn of the 20th century introduced new types of work through the mainstreaming of factories and machines, so too does the 21st promise to create all sorts of new jobs in fields such as programming, engineering and social media.
But it may take a while before those jobs start coming. Like much of the world, Canada was hit hard by the global recession of 2008, which saw unemployment jump and forced many employers to embark upon layoffs and other tough cost-cutting measures in order to balance their worsening bottom lines. Comparatively speaking, however, Canada experienced worse economic turmoil in the 1990s, and due to the financial reforms of that era, has avoided some of the debt and banking problems that now threaten to cripple other western countries.