In 1904 Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier made this prediction: “The 19th century was the century of the United States. I think we can claim that it is Canada that shall fill the 20th century.”

Maybe Laurier was just a man 100 years before his time. As the world assembles in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, the 21st century is shaping up great for Canada.

For starters, Canada has avoided many of the problems that currently bedevil the U.S.—mountains of public debt, a banking system in crisis, the housing debacle and a weakened currency.

Canada’s banking system, essentially made up of the Royal Bank of Canada and four other big banks, remained strong during the global credit crisis. With no bailouts, it is the soundest system in the world, marked by a steady and responsible continuation of lending and profits. “Canada has shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system,” U.S. President Barack Obama said amid the financial crisis. Was that a touch of envy in his voice?

And it is not just banks that have remained solvent. Canada, with its relatively small population of 34 million, has the lowest debt burden of any G8 country and less than half the per capita debt burden of the U.S.

Bill Gross, who runs Pimco, one of the world’s biggest bond managers, recently said that he thinks Canada is the best bet for investment among developed nations. “It moved toward and stayed closer to fiscal balance than any other country,” said Gross.

The world is taking note. Canada just hosted the G7 finance meeting way up north in Nunavut and will host both the G8 and G20 conferences later this year. Most important, Canada has welcomed the world to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and is showing off its accomplishments. Laurier would be thrilled. But not surprised.

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