2018: A Year in Review

A Special Edition Covering: Canada in 2018, War and Conflict, Technological Advances, Human Rights Movements, International Relations, Protests, and the Environment

Canada in 2018

By: Cindy Zhang


The US, Mexico, and Canada decided to replace NAFTA with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) earlier this year. Changes include easier US access to Canadian dairy and stronger labour standards. Although the trade loophole that let the US impose steel and aluminum tariffs has not been patched, a side agreement was made to protect Canada and Mexico from similar potential tariffs. Overall, the agreement is favourable for Canadians. The USMCA has yet to be ratified by the three governments, and the deadline is estimated to be in early spring of 2019. Canadian officials are fairly confident that it will be passed.

In 2018, Canada also made efforts to expand its international trade relations and reduce its reliance on the US. It has looked into trade pacts with China—cracking open a door to an enormously profitable potential market, though the recent Huawei scandal may have undermined its efforts.

The Pipeline Expansion Project

The issue of Alberta’s pipeline persists. At present, there is a gaping difference between Canadian and global oil prices, and tens of millions of dollars are lost each day. In 2018, the government agreed to purchase the existing pipelines to triple outputs, create jobs, and reduce losses. However, insufficient consultation with Indigenous groups and incomplete assessment of potential environmental impacts sent the project back to its consultation phase. Many Canadians saw this as a step towards more eco-awareness, more thorough planning, and better communication between Indigenous communities and the government.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the decision will be reviewed, though the Liberals intend on moving forward with it for national interest. The decision will likely appeal to the Supreme Court in 2019 or later.

Marijuana Legislation

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in October, the government has been working on a tightly-regulated private retail model to launch in April 2019.

Furthermore, cannabis products like edibles, drinks, and vaping products will be available in 2019. The goal is to curb the black market that is currently selling them. Consequently, the usage and tolerance of marijuana could increase; to some, it seems more socially acceptable to have a drink containing marijuana rather than to smoke a joint. Companies will also get a chance to develop their brand.


Protests both for and against the pipeline expansion continue to take place—and will continue into 2019. First Nations groups are divided; some 30% have shown approval while the rest have not.

In addition, France-inspired yellow vest protests popped up in Canada in late 2018. Topics of protest include the carbon tax, the pipeline construction, and the UN’s migration pact Canada recently signed. Though initially peaceful, some fights have broken out. A potential reason for this unrest, suggested by political scientist Chaldeans Mensah, is a feeling of insufficient debate and discussion by national governments regarding global-level agreements. Trudeau has not addressed these protests directly, and Mensah says that continued inaction could lead to serious political problems.

The Postal Union Strike

In October, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers went on rotating strike. They were legislated back to work in November, when parcel backlogs supposedly reached historic levels, though the union suspects it to be a false claim.

Some employees see the back-to-work legislation as a red flag that Canadian workers’ voices—postal workers or not—are being silenced. Rather than being ordered to work, they believe they should be negotiating. Postal workers plan on proceeding with legal means, as they did in the 2011 postal strike when the back-to-work legislation was later declared unconstitutional.

The Federal election

The 43rd Canadian federal election will take place on October 21st, 2019. As of October 2018, CBC’s Poll Tracker showed that Liberals have the highest winning chance. The Conservatives, the NDP, and the Green Party followed in order. However, voting intentions could change dramatically. Trudeau’s positive impression is bound to decline, as right-wing parties gain popularity in Quebec and Ontario and as the pipeline issue persists. Plus, in September, a new political party—the People’s Party of Canada—was founded by Maxime Bernier. Though its influence has been minor, the involvement of this new player could significantly alter the election landscape.

What To Expect In 2019

Despite Canada’s progress in 2018, next year doesn’t look easy. Investments are predicted to increase thanks to USMCA, while technological growth and the shift to a digital economy could open a lot of doors. However, wage growth and personal consumption growth has been lethargic. Monthly retail sales have been quite flat since May, and the household savings rate is 0.8%, nearly a “historic low” according to Financial Post. Bloomberg predicted an economic slowdown in 2019, suggesting the housing market as the cause. Besides, the terrain will be rocky as Brexit shakes Canada’s strong ties with both the EU and the UK and as Trump fights to hold onto his presidency for the 2020 US election.

International Events

By: Audrea Wang and Jacob Li

The War and Crisis in Yemen

Since 2015, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Northern Yemen have been fighting against the US-supplied, pro-government forces of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Thousands of civilians have died, and the UN states that 22 million are in need of aid.

Though the humanitarian situation is dire, few in the West were aware of it until 2018. In August, a Saudi bomb strike killing 40 schoolchildren drew outrage after the bomb was revealed to be US-made. The death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal opponent of the war, produced a similar outcry.

On December 13th, the US Senate passed two resolutions: one holding the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, accountable for Khashoggi’s death; and another ending US support for the war in Yemen. The latter resolution, however, still requires the House of Representatives’ support next year. At that point in 2019, President Trump will be the one to decide whether to accede to Congress or to simply veto the bill.

Ukraine and Russia – Impending War?

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine started in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, an area with an ethnic Russian majority. Though Crimea voted to join Russia in a referendum, Ukraine and the European Union have both condemned Russia’s seizure as illegal. Disputes over the control of land and ports surrounding Crimea occurred throughout 2018, and significant developments took hold.

In May, Russia built a bridge over the Kerch Strait—a key waterway that connects Ukraine to the Black Sea—that was far too low for large ships. Their naval officers restricted dozens of Ukranian ships, even firing at them on multiple occasions, and shipping to and from Mariupol, Ukraine’s largest port, decreased by 25%. With Ukraine’s navy diminished by 80% since the annexation of Crimea, Russia’s provocative actions pushed President Petro Poroshenko to declare martial law for 30 days in November.

Unfortunately, the outlook for 2019 doesn’t seem to be much better. Global leaders have had mixed responses, and the lack of action against Russian aggression could potentially lead to a worsening war between Ukraine and Russia.

Space Exploration

Space exploration in 2018 saw the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket. In February, after years of delays and failures, a Tesla roadster with a mannequin dubbed “Starman” was successfully launched into orbit. The partially-reusable Falcon Heavy can carry a 64-ton payload into low Earth orbit, second only to the now-defunct Saturn V. One day, it could carry human colonists to the Moon and Mars.

Others had news to share about Mars, too. In July, Italian researchers discovered an underground lake beneath the polar ice caps, potentially signaling a former presence of life on the planet. In November, NASA’s InSight probe landed on Mars and could provide additional information about the planet’s surface in 2019.

Closer to home, definitive proof of ice on the Moon was found by a team of American scientists in August. These sources, though sparse, could prove useful to future colonists who are in need of relatively easy-to-access sources of water.

China’s HIV Resistant Babies

This year, gene editing took a groundbreaking step forward when Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed to have created the world’s first HIV resistant children. The twin baby girls are said to have their CCR5 gene disabled, which prevents HIV from entering cells. The alteration of perfectly healthy embryos sparked outrage and controversy from researchers all over the world; Dr. Kiran Musunuru from the University of Pennsylvania stated that it was “an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible,” and Julian Savulescu from Oxford University called it “monstrous.”

Professor He practiced editing the genes of mice, monkey, and human embryos before experimenting on seven couples, though it hasn’t been confirmed whether the participants were aware of potential risks. Furthermore, various experts protest that the low chances of contracting HIV and the vast alternative prevention methods outweigh the necessity of this experiment. Though science fiction foreshadows a population of designer babies and superhumans, the debate on the ethics of stem cell research will likely stall such a reality for years to come.

The US-China Trade War

The world’s two largest economies have been involved in a continually-escalating, multibillion-dollar trade war for the past year. Economic impacts have been felt on both sides as reduced trade threatens GDP growth, employment rates, and stock markets.

The first round of tariffs was introduced in January by President Donald Trump in an attempt to curb state-sponsored intellectual property theft and unfair Chinese protectionism, leading to months of tit-for-tat retaliation from both countries. Tariffs now stand at US $250 billion on Chinese exports and US $110 billion on US exports. If a deal is not reached by the end of 2018, 25% tariffs on all US $517 billion Chinese goods could be applied.

Multiple meetings have been held between President Trump and President Xi, but none have resolved the trade war. Though there were high hopes before their meeting at the G20 Summit in November, neither side was willing to make concessions. With the prospect of a slumping economy in 2019, the trade war looks fierce as ever.

NATO’s Future

In 2019, NATO will celebrate its 70th anniversary. The military alliance saw many successes in 2018, including new members, improved technology, and better relations with the EU. On the other hand, President Trump was dissatisfied by the lack of commitment and spending that his European allies contributed. He complained, on numerous occasions, of their failure to meet the 2% GDP spending on national security they had promised to in 2014, and spurred them to double that number. He even threatened to withdraw American troops and retaliate against countries that do not share the burden fairly. However, 2019 may not be a good time for internal disputes; Russian aggression and influence prevail, and the Middle East and Africa are ravaged by war. Whether or not NATO will find solidarity and unite in the face of the numerous global conflicts will be revealed at the next summit.

The #MeToo Movement

Over one year ago, sexual assault allegations were brought against film producer Harvey Weinstein, boosting the #MeToo movement to prominence. The hashtag, originally used to show solidarity with women stepping forward to accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct, has since led to accusations against hundreds of prominent individuals.

Though people like Harvey Weinstein have lost their careers because of #MeToo, others remain firmly in power. Doubt was cast upon the effectiveness of the movement in October, when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a US Supreme Court Justice despite being accused of assault by multiple women.

During 2018, the #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment into the public spotlight, but it has also divided Western culture. Many women still refrain from accusing harassers for fear that they will face retaliation. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, faced “unending” death threats and criticism from others. Though the paradigm has certainly shifted thanks to #MeToo, it’s doubtful that its goals have truly been met.

Crisis in the Sahel

West Africa’s Sahel has been famine-ridden for decades, but the humanitarian situation worsened in 2018 as drought, inflation, and corruption wreaked havoc in the region. Food insecurity has left over 24 million people in need of assistance, particularly in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Chad, and Mali. Many communities were already burdened by armed banditry and jihadist attacks, and are now facing heightened vulnerability as weather patterns grow more unpredictable and extreme. The infrequent rainfall, scarcened by climate change, causes farmers to lose over half their crop, spoiling the Sahel’s only growing season. UN agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) need more than $650 million altogether to provide food packets and other immediate aid to the most vulnerable. However, lasting change is necessary to combat drought and prevent mass migration.

Gilets Jaunes In France

The past six weeks in France have been plagued with unrest as hundreds of thousands have taken to streets in protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel taxes. The leaderless movement, known as the “Gilets Jaunes” or Yellow Vests, has grown to encompass all kinds of people fed up with the “elitist” government.

Peaceful protests, however, soon degenerated into violence and looting. Originally unfazed by protestors, President Macron has relented and agreed to some concessions, including cancelling the hated fuel taxes and instating a minimum wage hike. However, other economic reforms, such as lowering corporate taxes and slashing public spending, will remain in place to reduce France’s hefty debt burden.

Protests have shrunk considerably since they began, but thousands still demonstrate every weekend. Macron’s main rival, the populist Marine Le Pen, has already surpassed him in opinion polls. 2019’s question will be if Macron can push his reforms while placating an angry French public. He may have no choice but to accede to their demands.

The Implementation of the Paris Agreement

Over three years ago, the most ambitious climate agreement in history was signed by all nations: the Paris agreement. In 2018, nations finally came together to decide how to meet those requirements at the the Katowice Climate Conference, also known as the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24), in Poland. Negotiators from over 200 nations hammered out details of the Paris agreement, such as increasing transparency to ensure requirements are met.

However, the main stumbling block remained the United States’ intention to withdraw. Though this cannot happen until 2020 (after the federal election),, a lack of effort from the US already threatens the agreement’s stability. Next year’s COP25 will likely address this issue and the issues surrounding using the free market to regulate carbon—but time is running out. Earlier in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report warning of catastrophic warming if action is not taken within twelve years. Countries have already fallen behind on the Paris Agreement, making 2019 as crucial as ever in the fight against climate change.

Venezuela’s Hyperinflation

In the early 21st century, Hugo Chavez introduced various policies aimed at resolving Venezuela’s excessive inequality. An example is his development of the oil industry and the regulation of the price for basic goods. However, price controls meant that businesses could no longer profit from selling goods such as flour or cooking oil. As a result, Venezuela relied heavily on its oil reserves to generate revenue. When oil prices crashed in 2014, Venezuela’s economy went with it; its foreign currency plummeted, making it difficult to import necessary goods, thus sparking a downward spiral of inflation. The lack of jobs, the low wages, and the unaffordability of food and household items inspired mass demonstrations in 2017 against President Maduro, whose futile plan to bring the economy back to its feet and corruption lost confidence in even dedicated supporters. However, the opposition party was divided, and protests waned. In 2018, millions decided to abandon the uninhabitable conditions and set foot for Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil or attempted to flee to the United States or Spain. Given US sanctions have done little to incentivize wiser actions, Venezuela may continue to face a migration crisis in 2019.


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“Ice Confirmed at the Moon’s Poles.” NASA, NASA, 20 Aug. 2018, www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7218.

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