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Somehow, when he recounted the big political events of 2018 at his year-end press conference, Justin Trudeau skipped over the fact that he bought an oil pipeline for $4.5-billion.

In any other year, a prime minister couldn’t even try to yada-yada over something that big. But this was 2018, and he was able to rattle off a list of major events and hope that mention of the stalled Trans Mountain expansion could go missing between a new post-NAFTA trade deal and the legalization of marijuana.

Sometimes it seemed like Canadians were unfazed by a year that was chock-a-block with events that might normally be expected to shake our national politics.

Maybe that’s partly because south of the border, U.S. President Donald Trump turned politics into attention-grabbing chaos. This time last year, Mr. Trump was threatening North Korea’s Kim Jong-un with war; Six months later, he met the dictator at an upbeat summit. Events in the rest of the world, from recurring Brexit crises in Britain to Yellow Vests in France to Saudi hit squads murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi, could fill two new verses of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.

Yet in this country, 2018 was a year replete with events that alone might have dominated Canadian politics in almost any other year.

That new North American trade deal, struck on Sept. 30, was in fact the second major trade agreement Canada signed onto this year. It’s almost forgotten that in January, Mr. Trudeau signed on to the rejigged Trans-Pacific Partnership (an 11-member version, without the United States, of a deal then-prime minister Stephen Harper signed in 2015) after balking only months before.

The new North American free-trade agreement, called CUSMA by the Canadian government and USMCA by Mr. Trump, was itself the culmination of high-pressure threats from Mr. Trump that he would impose stiff tariffs on the Canadian auto sector that would devastate the Canadian economy.

Maybe Canadians aren’t surprised now that the U.S. President would threaten to bring Canada to its knees – but in 2017 that seemed unthinkable.

The final deal itself was, admittedly, less momentous than once feared: Canada and Mexico made concessions, but it was NAFTA with a haircut. It didn’t clear up all of Canada’s trade problems with the United States, including tariffs on steel and aluminum, but it was done.

Perhaps that’s why Canadians didn’t seem have a strong reaction to a deal that once seemed like a make-or-break test for Mr. Trudeau’s government. Nanos Research polls showed only a little movement.

Public-opinion also didn’t seem to shift with a major cultural and legal milestone that Canadian politicians had mooted for decades: the legalization of marijuana. It was foreshadowed with hoopla from advocates and warnings from critics that the risks were too high and police weren’t ready, but the political controversy died in days.

The only specific event that by itself had a truly discernible effect on Mr. Trudeau’s popularity, in the view of pollster David Coletto, chief executive officer of Abacus Data, was the Prime Minister’s gaffe-filled trip to India in February which caused a sudden souring of Canadians’ views of him.

That doesn’t mean big events didn’t have an impact. But in 2018, they sloshed up against each other. Pollster Nik Nanos said lingering anxiety over U.S. trade after the USMCAdeal combined with the shutdown of the General Motors plan in Oshawa, Ont., and the devastating glut that sank oil prices in Alberta to create economic uncertainty that probably caused an early-December dip in Liberal popularity.

And some big events kept rippling back in different ways.

Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals spent much of the spring in a high-stakes pipeline drama after Kinder Morgan Canada warned it might abandon the Trans Mountain expansion project. By May, the federal government spent $4.5-billion to buy the pipeline – seen then as risking B.C. support to save the project. In August, a court put the expansion on hold to fix flaws in the process. By October, a glut had driven the price of Alberta bitumen so low, and anger at the lack of a pipeline rose so high that many Albertans were nodding at conspiratorial assertions that the Liberals only bought the pipeline to prevent the expansion from going forward.

There was a stream of startling international surprises. In June, Mr. Trump left the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que., taking to Twitter to attack Mr. Trudeau. In August, Saudi Arabia reacted with rage to a Canadian government tweet, ordering its students to leave Canada while insisting Saudi business would be cut off. In December, China reacted to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on U.S. charges with threats and the detention of two Canadians in China.

And there were notable events in party politics at home: In Ontario, the sudden rise of Doug Ford; In Quebec, the sidelining of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois; In the federal NDP, the low impact of new Leader Jagmeet Singh; On the right, Maxime Bernier, the second-place finisher from the Conservatives' 2017 leadership race chose to form a new, more conservative party.

The thing about 2018 isn’t that it was the first year of big events in Canadian politics. Jean Chrétien went through the 1995 Quebec referendum and Stephen Harper endured the 2008 global financial crisis. It’s that’s there were so many – big choices, big surprises, big milestones – that came so fast.

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