2018 saw the legalization of cannabis, the renegotiation of the NAFTA and a Ford government in Ontario. Illustration: Rame Abdulkader.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some of the most notable moments in provincial and federal politics this year

When you have a neighbour like the United States, perhaps the largest political machine in the world, Canadian politics often go unnoticed or overlooked. But don’t fret: we put together a list of some of the major Canadian political news stories of the year.

Federal politics and international relations

June 8-9: Canada hosts 44th G7 Summit

Canada hosted the summit in La Malbaie, Quebec. U.S. President Trump made shockwaves by arguing that Russia should be reinstated to the G8 while imposing tariffs on the U.S.’s allies. News agencies began calling the summit the “G6 plus one” to refer to the isolation of the United States.

Aug. 2: Canada—Saudi Arabia diplomatic dispute

A major diplomatic dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia erupted after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland sent out a tweet criticizing the country’s human rights abuses. The Saudi government enacted a number of measures against Canada in retaliation, including the moving of all Saudi students in the country (246 at the U of O) on government-funded scholarships out of the country, save for medical residents. Other measures included suspending the country’s airline services in Canada, stopping all new trade and investment with Canada, and expelling the Canadian ambassador.  

Aug. 23: Bernier leaves Conservatives to create new party

MP Maxime Bernier announced he was leaving the Conservative party of Canada due to disagreement with Andrew Scheer’s leadership. In September he announced the formation of the People’s Party of Canada.

Aug. 30: Federal court blocks federal purchase of Trans Mountain Pipeline

The Federal Court of Appeals blocked the federal government’s move to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline that carries oil through Alberta and British Columbia, citing a lack of Indigenous consultation and the possibility of environmental damage. The pipeline is still delayed.

Sept. 30: NAFTA becomes the USMCA

After over a year of renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States, Canada and Mexico agreed on the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA). There were a few notable changes to the trade deal: U.S. farmers were given more access to the Canadian dairy market, automobiles must now have 75 per cent of their components manufactured in the three countries to sidestep tariffs and the copyright period for a drug class called biologics was increased by two years. The deal was signed by the leaders of all three countries on Nov. 30 at the G20 summit in Argentina. .

Oct. 1: CAQ wins Quebec elections

The Coalition Avenir Quebec wins the majority of seats in the provincial elections, becoming the first party other than the Liberals or Parti Québécois to win since 1970.

Oct. 17: Canada legalizes cannabis nationwide

Canada became the second country worldwide to legalize cannabis after Uruguay, ending nearly a century of prohibition, but laws governing legal cannabis differed widely between provinces and territories. The legal age for consumption was set at 19 across the country except for Alberta and Quebec (although there is a planned increase) at 18 and 21, respectively. Canadians can grow their own cannabis at home, except for those living in Manitoba and Quebec. Legal smoking areas differ widely.

Nov. 19: Viola Desmond appears on $10 bill

Viola Desmond, a Nova Scotian civil rights pioneer and businesswoman, became the first Canadian woman to be featured on a circulating banknote.

Nov. 22: Trudeau calls low Alberta oil prices “a crisis”

Trudeau addressed the low selling price of oil coming out of Alberta, roughly 40 per cent below the world price, largely caused by a lack of pipeline capacity in the region to ship oil outside of Canada.

Nov. 27: Federal back-to-work legislation for postal workers

The federal government passed legislation forcing Canada Post workers striking across the country, who were asking for better pay and greater job security, to return to work.

Provincial politics

Jan 1: Prescription drugs free for Ontarians under 24

Under OHIP-plus, any Ontarian aged 24 and younger could have their prescription drugs filled for free. The policy covers more than 4,400 prescription drugs and near the end of January the Ontario government reported filling close to 1 million prescriptions. The newly elected Conservative government tweaked the policy in June, making those with existing private insurance coverage no longer eligible.

Jan 1: Minimum wage hike

The minimum wage jumped from $11.60 to $14 as the new year kicked off, making Ontario the province with the second-highest minimum wage behind Alberta at $15. Business owners expressed concern that the higher minimum wage would impact their economic success. Minimum wage was planned to increase to $15 in 2019 but the plan was halted by Doug Ford’s government.

June 8: Doug Ford elected as Ontario premier

The Progressive Conservative party, led by Doug Ford, won a majority government in the provincial general election, which takes place every four years. The Liberal party, led by former premier Kathleen Wynne, was shafted, losing official party status for the first time in 161 years. The NDP party, led by Andrea Horwath, formed the official opposition.

July 3: Ford scraps cap and trade

The Ford government kept a campaign promise by cutting the province’s cap-and-trade program, which forced corporations to pay for their carbon emissions (some called them ‘permits to pollute’)  in their attempt to lower gas prices by 10 cents a litre. The revenue from the program went towards rebates for energy-efficient renovations, transit projects and funds for school repairs.

July 11: Ford scraps sex ed curriculum

Ford’s provincial government scrapped the previous Liberal government’s sex ed curriculum, updated in 2015 to include modules on online safety and same-sex relationships and consent. They reverted back to the 1998 curriculum instead, warning teachers that they could face consequences if they do not follow suit.

Aug. 30: Free speech on campus

Ford announced in a press release that the provincial government would be mandating all publicly-funded post secondary institutions in Ontario to develop and implement free speech policies by Jan. 1 2019 or face the risk of funding cuts. Policies must include a definition of freedom of speech and are to be based off the Chicago Principles that state post-secondaries should be home to open expression, free inquiry, and should not shield students from offensive or disagreeable ideas or opinions.

Sept. 10: Ford invokes notwithstanding clause to cut Toronto council

The provincial government made headlines in September when their plan to cut Toronto city council from a 47 ward model to 25 was passed thanks largely to Ford’s use of the notwithstanding clause, a policy never before invoked by an Ontario government that allows provincial legislature to pass legislation that overrides provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Oct. 23: Post-secondary expansions stopped

The provincial government cancelled government funding that was to be used to expand three major universities into different cities, citing a multi-billion-dollar provincial budget deficit: York University/Seneca College was to expand into Markham, Ryerson University/Sheridan College into Brampton and Wilfrid Laurier University/Conestoga College into Milton.

Nov. 19: French-language university cancelled  

Ford announced he would be cancelling plans to build Ontario’s first ever French-language university, set to open in Toronto in 2020, citing financial reasons.