Major national events of the year
Harper Wins Majority
On May 2, the federal government led by Stephen Harper turned his original minority government into a majority, as the federal elections made electoral history. As well, for the first time ever, the New Democratic party (NDP) also managed to secure the position of official opposition, as the Liberal party saw a dramatic fall in their support.
Jack Layton, the late leader of the NDP, fueled the NDP resurgence. This election saw the youth population of Canada get heavily involved in their local political affairs, in light of the impending changes in the Canadian political climate.
The elections this year were particularly characterized by the attack ads that parties actively launched against one another, in particular the Conservative ads that attacked the Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
The elections also saw the NDP take the province of Quebec by storm as the Bloc Quebecois saw their support plummet in that province. The Conservative government is in the process of releasing their revised annual budget that Prime Minister Harper has ominously hinted will change the political landscape of Canada forever.
China-Canada Trade begins
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, over the last little while, has made great strides in strengthening the relationship between Canada and rapidly growing economic power, China. Some of these relationship changes look to include a potential future where Canada and China engage in free trade.
Studies are presently being conducted on both economies to determine the potential benefits of such an agreement. While China still remains number two in terms of trade volume with Canada, that might change as the United States continue to spiral in terms of its economy, whereas China and Canada remain relatively strong. In an attempt to diversify the countries to which Canada exports natural resources, Harper signed an agreement to trade Canadian uranium to the Chinese.
The Harper government has also been particularly outspoken about their intent to export the crude oil to a wider portfolio of nations rather than concentrating it south of the border.
Jack Layton passes away
Former NDP leader Jack Layton lost his battle to cancer on Aug. 22, at the age of 61. The devastating announcement came only three months after Layton led his party to unprecedented levels of success in the springtime federal election as the official opposition.
Layton’s wife and Toronto member of parliament Olivia Chow accepted Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s offer for a state funeral, which was held at Roy Thompson Hall on Aug. 27. Thousands of people gathered at Toronto City Hall, and lined the streets to observe the procession of the casket, while a smaller portion of people were actually able to attend the ceremony.
Thomas Mulcair has now been elected as the party leader, but Layton’s legacy of dedication social justice and positive change will not be forgotten.
Occupy Movement across Canada
A made-in-America movement against corporate greed called Occupy Wall Street found its way to Canada and spread coast to coast as people joined in, most of the time, peaceful solidarity to begin protesting on Oct. 15. Some cities were more receptive to the occupiers than others; Occupy London was shut down after about two weeks, while protestors St. John’s stayed well into the New Year without complaint from city officials.
The movement has been strongly critiqued for its lack of leadership and concrete goals. Protestors amalgamated under the banner of “we are the 99per cent,” indicating general dissatisfaction with the power of the small group economic elites.
Although large-scale demonstrations and camps have essentially been dismantled in Canada, protestors have recently directed their efforts to issues such as Air Canada labour concerns and the federal election robo-calls.
Vancouver, London and Montreal Riots
Numerous cities across the country experienced various acts of riots this year, Vancouver being one of the major ones. After losing the Stanley Cup in June 2011, disappointed Vancouver Canucks fans flooded the streets of their city, causing million dollars in property damage and hundreds of riot charges to people involved in the rioting.
The cases are still filtering through the court system and police are still looking for suspects who participated in the violent riots.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, students from the Université du Québec à Montréal protested tuition increases at Square-Victoria, a downtown park on Montréal. What started out as a peaceful protest eventually turned into a violent riot when demonstrators moved to the front of the Loto-Québec building, which houses the offices for the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities (CREPUQ), supporters of the increase in tuition costs.
Police used tear gas to urge the students to move away from the entrance, but this only sparked a harsher reaction. According to Concordia’s student newspaper, The Link, four students were injured, as well as one police officer.
Additionally, just last week on St. Patrick’s Day, London, Ontario experienced what is being called “the worst case of civil disobedience,” that the community has ever been subjected to, according to police chief Brad Duncan.
Students caused an estimated $100,000 worth of property damage, including setting a CTV News van on fire, as well as assaulting police officers and ruining the city streets. At least 13 students were arrested, eight of them being Fanshawe students, who were also suspended from their school.
30 per cent off tuition grant for students
The 30 per cent off tuition grant, which came into effect in January of 2012, will help to benefit full-time undergraduate university and college students across Canada.
The grant, which was announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty at Wilfrid Laurier University in January, is restricted to students who are on OSAP, are less than four years out of high school and their parents combined income is les than $160,000.
In the January semester, university and college degree students received $800, while college diploma and certificate students received $365. Starting in September 2012, the grant will pay $1,600 a year for students in a degree program at a college or university and $730 a year for students in a certificate or diploma program at a college.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are starting to become more and more demanded in Canada as students are feeling their necessity for transgendered people who feel uncomfortable choosing between male and female bathrooms. The movement began in the University of Winnipeg, where the students claim that that the students will be harassed no matter which bathroom they choose, so why not make a specifically gender-neutral one.
The counter argument is clear however: If people weren’t noticing before, it will be even more evident now. Anyone who uses said washrooms would be instantly noticed as oppose to keeping matters subtle like before. People who were comfortable simply choosing one or the other would be forced into ostracizing themselves.
The University of Western, has also converted many of its disabled bathrooms into gender neutral ones.
–Jonathan Peres DaSilva