Against the Queen’s view of 1992 as “a horrible year,” others decline to look back with undiluted gloom. Even Canada’s deeply troubled year includes achievements to applaud. The dominating images of depression and failure are diluted by such distractions as the Olympic Games and the triumph of the Toronto Blue Jays in baseball’s World Series. As well, the majority of Canadian voters in the October referendum may celebrate their rejection of a constitutional “renewal” plan that they considered flawed, defying the advice of their leaders. Despite that defiance, and some say because of it, Canada’s most significant achievement is the survival of Confederation in its testing 125th anniversary year. By contrast, the breakup of what used to be the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and the clash of cultures on other continents, produced bloodshed and chaos.
It is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. It has turned out to be an annus horribilis. I suspect I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty.
—Queen Elizabeth II, speaking on Nov. 24 at a City of London luncheon
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In that wider context, from warfare in the Balkans and religious strife in India to famine and fighting in Africa, the wounds that scar the year will be long in healing. The Yugoslav mayhem stymied UN relief efforts, and strained Canada’s peacekeeping efforts. In Somalia, the United Nations authorized unprecedented military action to protect food aid from plunder by warring factions. The turmoil, and the uncertainties spawned by a depressed world economy, leave menacing legacies to the new year.
The recession’s human and financial cost to Canada is devastating. The unemployment toll grew at a rate of 18,750 a month to exceed 1.6 million people, and major employers planned more layoffs in 1993. The monthly pace of financial failures averaged 1,200 bankruptcies representing
debts of almost $600 million, while the two big airlines and the property empire of Toronto’s Reichmann brothers teetered near collapse. Closure of Atlantic fisheries, trade wars in farm products and a flight of manufacturers to the United States added to the agony. And Ottawa concocted further doses of austerity for 1993, including reduced unemployment benefits, less price competition in medical drugs and cuts in the child-support budget with the end of family allowances.
Some economists detected «8 faint signs of a recovery late in # the year. But the strongest hopes rested with the election in November of Democrat Bill Clinton to the White House, on a promise of taking direct action to get the world’s biggest economy moving. Those hopes count on Canada riding on the U.S. coattails to recovery, as does much of the rest of the world.
Across the Atlantic, Queen Elizabeth will contribute to the British economy as one result of her own “horrible year.” Her 1992 encompasses broken marriages among all three of her married children, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne (who remarried) and the heir to her throne, Prince Charles. It includes the pursuit of young royals and their mates by a spate of books and media accounts about extramarital waywardness. Its most startling images are of Sarah, Andrew’s wife, cavorting topless with a boyfriend in the presence of her children.
The Queen herself faced protests over the cost to the British taxpayer of keeping the Royal Family, complaints that became a clamor after the government promised to pay for the repair of Windsor Castle when fire ravaged the Queen’s favorite weekend retreat. Within a week, Prime Minister John Major announced that the Queen had agreed to begin paying income tax, and to assume some of the public costs of supporting her family. That decision may not loom large in the world’s attempts to heal itself in 1993, but everything counts in the striving to make the new year less horrible.
PHOTO OF THE YEA!
me Minister Brian Mulroney, in Sherbrooke, Que., on Sept. 28, warning against rejection of constitutional proposals
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