At the beginning of the 21st century, the two main parties of the Canada, the Conservative party (Conservative party of Canada, CPC) and the Liberal party (Liberal party, LP), continued to enjoy only relative majorities that made it necessary the vote of the opposition parties to approve the measures proposed by the government. In November 2005, the government of the liberal Paul Martin, weakened by allegations of embezzlement involving some ministers, was disheartened and went to early elections (Jan. 2006). The CPC prevailed in the consultations (124 seats, against 103 for the Liberals), without however obtaining an absolute majority: its secretary Stephen Harper therefore formed a minority government.
In the following months, measures were approved that reduced taxes, introduced a subsidy for children and prescribed transparency in government documents (June 2006), while Harper’s proposal to ban same-sex marriages (legal since July 2005) was rejected.. In November 2006, the House of Commons symbolically recognized the residents of Québec, the French-speaking province claiming independence, as a “nation within Canada”.
Since the absence of an absolute majority paralyzed government activity, hoping for a clearer victory, Harper asked for early elections: these were held in October 2008 and were won by the party of the outgoing premier, who however failed again the goal of an absolute majority. At the end of the year the opposition parties – the LP, the Social Democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) and the separatist Bloc québécois (BQ) – agreed with the aim of overthrowing the government and to form a new one: the three parties, in fact, were opposed to the measures proposed by Harper (cuts in public spending and, in particular, programs for equal pay between men and women; ban on strike on wage issues for public employees up to to 2011; limitation of public funding to parties) to cope with the global economic crisis. Harper, in order to avoid a vote in Parliament that would have seen him defeated, convinced the governor general to suspend the parliamentary work until the end of January 2009. When they started again, the government launched a package of economic measures which, by reintroducing financing to parties and containing measures that stimulated the economy, they were also voted on by the liberals, putting an end to the possible crisis.
According to Directoryaah, the new early elections in May 2011 finally awarded an absolute majority of seats to the CPC, which in the election campaign had promised an increase in jobs and a decrease in taxes. Furthermore, for the first time, the LP was overtaken by the NDP, while the BQ almost disappeared (from 49 to 4 seats). Strengthened by an absolute majority, in the following years Harper was able to apply his policies to reduce social benefits, taxes and public spending, severely contested rules, especially by students who, in 2012, protested for over a hundred consecutive days against the increase in university fees. In 2011 the government also announced the exit from the Kyoto Protocol on environmental protection, failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the established deadlines.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the issue of Québec’s possible independence remained one of the most debated political issues in the country. However, the Québec Parliament elections, held in April 2014, saw a defeat by the separatists of the Parti québécois (PQ) and a victory by the Liberal Party of Québec (Parti libéral du Québec, PLQ), which guaranteed its loyalty to the Canadian federation..
In foreign policy, Canada continued to be very active in international organizations and in peacekeeping missions, such as that of NATO in Afghānistān – where, at the end of 2011, after losing numerous soldiers, it suspended combat activities and decided to devote himself exclusively to the training of the Afghan armed forces. Despite the presence at the main international cooperation tables, Canada, in October 2010, was unable to achieve the assignment of a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Under the NATO banner, in 2011 the Canada also participated in military operations in Libya using maritime forces: the operational command of all activities was entrusted to the Canadian general Charles Bouchard.
On October 18, 2013, Canada and the European Commission signed an important general agreement on free trade, the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), which provided for the abolition of 99% customs duties between the country and the EU: the final text approved in summer 2014, its entry into force was subject to ratification by the governments of the EU member states, the European Parliament and the 10 Canadian provincial governments.
In October 2014, Canada decided to participate in military operations against the Islamic State (IS). As a reaction, a man ran over two Canadian soldiers in Quebec, killing one, while in Ottawa another killed an Italian-Canadian soldier who was guarding the National war memorial and attempted an assault on Parliament: both attackers, supporters of an Islamism. extremist, but unrelated to each other, they were killed by the police.
The increasing melting of glaciers in the Arctic Sea region finally pushed Canada to engage more and more in competition with Russia, the United States, Denmark and Norway for access to routes and for the exploitation of the area’s natural resources.