Too many Americans have the bad habit of either ignoring or
taking for granted our neighbor to the north, Canada.
Many are unaware that Canada is our largest foreign trade
partner, or that Canadians have contributed so much to our
U.S. cultural life in popular and classical music; actors in our
theater, films and on television; artists and performers in the
visual and dance arts.
Canada historically, once we broke off from Great Britain,
became one of our most dependable allies in two world wars,
Korea, Viet Nam, and various peacekeeping efforts around
The longest (and probably most peaceful) border in the world
between two nations is between the U.S. and Canada.
Canada is thus vital to the economy, culture and security of
The Canadians just held their national elections, and their
charismatic and controversial young prime minister was
returned to office (he was first elected in 2015), but his Liberal
Party no longer has a majority in the Canadian parliament.
Queen Elizabeth II is the titular head of state in Canada which
is completely independent. Canada, formerly a colony of Great
Britain, is now a member of the British Commonwealth of
Nations (made up of countries that were formerly colonies).
The queen appoints a governor-general who is chosen by the
Canadian government. All of the executive powers rest with
the prime minister who is chosen by the parliament.
Mr. Trudeau’s party just won about 15 seats less than a
parliamentary majority. He has just announced he will not try
to form a majority coalition, but will instead lead a minority
government. Fortunately for him, he can assemble often a
majority on legislation from other left of center parties which
won seats, but such a government can be a problematic one.
The second largest party, the Progressive Conservative Party
won more popular votes across Canada than did Trudeau’s
Liberal Party, but Canada, like the U.S., does not hold a popular
vote election to choose its executive leadership.
The concentration of Liberal voters is primarily in the eastern
provinces and Ontario, the largest province. Conservative voters
dominate the western provinces. In 2015, Mr. Trudeau’s party
also won Quebec, but in 2019, a nationalist Quebec party made a
dramatic increase in seats won --- at the expense of the Liberals.
This helped cost Mr. Trudeau his parliamentary majority.
Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are centrist parties,
center-left and center-right. Two other parties which won seats
are to the left of the Liberals (but will support Mr. Trudeau’s
election as prime minister). The issue for the Quebec party is
Quebec independence --- although it leans to the left, too. This
large and primarily French-speaking province is the reason
Canada is officially bi-lingual --- although outside of Quebec,
most Canadians speak primarily English.
The population of Canada is 38 million, but most of its citizens
live in a few large cities near the U.S. border. Ottawa is the
capital, but the largest cities are Toronto, Montreal and
Vancouver. It is the second largest nation on earth in area (after
Russia) but only the fifth largest in land mass (large parts of it
include bodies of water). Like the U.S., it has a notable
population of native peoples. It has substantial natural resources;
yet much of its land cannot be cultivated, and is located in cold
climates where few persons are likely to inhabit.
It was settled by the English and the French about 400 years ago.
In spite of its relatively small population, it has the 10th largest
economy in the world.
Recently, Mr. Trudeau and his government signed the North
American trade agreement, as did Mexico, at the initiative of
President Trump, but the U.S. Congress has yet to ratify it.
Although they have somewhat different political ideologies,
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Trump appear to get on well. President
Trump warmly congratulated Prime Minister Trudeau on his
The destiny and well-being of the U.S. and Canada are vitally
linked, by language, location, economic and security interests.
Each has a pride of its own, but the larger nation has long
often undervalued the smaller nation, creating a certain
tension and resentment in the latter.
In the difficult global period likely ahead, when the U.S. will
need and rely on its friends more than ever before, an increased
interest in and greater appreciation for Canada might be a wise
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.