With the economic recovery in the West still showing modest growth, there is one country among the G8 that in U.S. circles is often identified as a success story. It is Canada.
There was no need for a bank bailout and the stimulus plan has worked its magic as Canada, in a relative sense, lost fewer jobs than other G8 countries. More importantly, however, the job situation in Canada has recovered to pre-recession levels compared to a 14% job recovery in the U.S. Our deficit (3% of GDP) and debt-to-GDP ratio (less than 50%) are still highly manageable. But this is only part of the story.
On July 1st, Canada will be celebrating its 144th birthday in its usual low-key manner, with little pomp. To many, it is just a picnic day with a maple leaf flag adorning the gathering. It is so typical of Canadians to acknowledge this world-admired country with very little fanfare. Yet, Canada has every reason to be more boisterous in singing its praises.
Canada is one of North America's three federations and its most decentralized. It has two official languages, French and English, and has the second largest land mass on the planet, bordering three oceans. Canada's federated states - the provinces - own their natural resources and are responsible for their development. In accordance with the constitution, education and healthcare are also provincial responsibilities.
In addition, Quebec, as a federated state within Canada, has jurisdiction over its immigration policy and the autonomy to build an international presence within its constitutional jurisdictions. It is also formally recognized as a nation within Canada.
Stable financial institutions and an innovative economy with a highly educated labour force make Canada an ideal place for investment. In the last five years, the country has negotiated eight free trade deals and has over 50 more in preparation. In the next year, Canada will likely have negotiated a trade deal with the European Union.
In addition to Canada's generally successful economy, the country has come to grips with important social issues over the years. Since the early seventies, Canada has universal healthcare and one of the highest life expectancy rates and lowest infant mortality numbers.
We have constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, and same-sex marriage has been legal for nearly a decade. A woman's right to choose is no longer a political issue. Capital punishment was abolished in the seventies and our crime rates are among the lowest in the industrial world.
Over 50% of our population was born in another country. Canada welcomes and is known to celebrate its diversity throughout the land. Our universities are a magnet for foreign students.
This July 1st is a good time to recall that Canada has, over its history, been a model of democracy, deserving of admiration, yet humble enough to concede that it is still perfectible.
As Quebecer and Canadian, I can say without hesitation: Happy birthday, Canada!