Canada is the most expansive of the five Anglo-Saxon states.
Form of Government: confederation with parliamentary democracy
Official Languages: French and English
Capital City: Ottawa, Ontario
Canada is a bilingual (French and English) multicultural decentralized parliamentary and federal state.
Canadians share a family tree that represents peoples from around the world. Canada’s political and cultural landscape has been shaped by many waves of immigrants who displaced the peoples and traditions of most First Nations (Canada). For more information about Canadian diversity visit Culture.ca. Here you will find information about the many cultures that make up Canada's mulitcultural landscape. For extremely detailed information on Canadian issues and parties, much of it in issue/position/argument form, see openpolitics.ca.
The second largest country on the planet in territory, Canada has a population estimated at 31,630,000 in 2004. As a consequence it has a population density of only 8.22 persons per square mile or 3.43 persons per square kilometer. Only Australia, Botswana, Iceland and Suriname have lower population densities. The population of Canada is highly concentrated in a zone within 200 miles of the U.S. Border.
Canada's provinces and territories are usually described in perceived in the following terms:
- Ontario - large population Anglophone cultural center
- Quebec - large population Francophone cultural periphery
- Alberta - socially and politically conservative Anglophone prairie province
- Manitoba and Saskatchewan - socially conservative and politically liberal Anglophone prairie provinces
- Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island - impoverished Anglophone Maritime provinces
- Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon Territory - great white north
- British Columbia - cool coast
It is sometimes said that Thomas Jefferson's own model was better realized in Canada than in the United States in various ways:
- more of a commitment to public education including post-secondary - there are very few private universities in Canada
- earlier abolition of slavery - 1837 - with no war being fought over that issue
- better separation of church and state due to compromises between Catholics and Protestants over schooling -- Catholics have their own school boards, thus providing choice in public education -- though this means that in fact the state devotes significant public resources to funding religious education
- a democracy-promoting but otherwise neutral foreign policy in which Canada acts, much as Sweden or the late 19th century United States, as a mediator between great powers - a concept which was strongly favoured by Jefferson who sought to avoid the US becoming such a power
- a focus on local agrarian economies without great reliance on foreign trade, which Canada has historically achieved by default simply by relying too much on US industry to consume its agricultural, forest and mineral products, especially oil and gas. However, Canada is now just as industrialised and trade-oriented as is the US, and in fact during the last few years Canada's exports as a percentage of GDP have ranked highest in the G8.
Jefferson himself listed his founding of the University of Virginia, that state's religious tolerance statue, the Declaration of Independence which removed the US from the conflict between the superpowers of the day (Britain and France), and the Bill of Rights - not sure about this fourth - check it please - as the four primary achievements he took pride in. He did not list his own presidency. It should also be said that as a Francophile and certified French food snob, Jefferson would have loved hanging out in Quebec and eating at its restaurants.
It is sometimes said that what Americans spend on guns, Canadians spend on health care -- although the US actually spends more as a percentage of GDP on health care than Canada does. It's also a common observation that Canada would be "defenceless" without the United States. However, looking at a map makes it clear that there is exactly and only one potential enemy that could ever invade Canada: the US. See U.S. invasion of Canada and the reciprocal Canadian invasion of the U.S. - both equally ridiculous but not for the reasons you think.
The assertion that Canadians are cowardly is rare, wholly ignorant, and easily refuted with reference to performance in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, many UN peacekeeping operations and the Afghan War. Quite the contrary, Canadian forces have relied since WWI on volunteers and have accordingly had much higher morale. On D-Day, a German commander hearing Canadian troops would invade his beach, complained bitterly that "dozens of nations against us, and I get the Canadians". The only attempt to invade Europe prior to D-Day was the failed Dieppe Raid, a suicide mission by Canadian troops - a possibly cynical attempt to test the defences of the continent.
Americans wonder that Canada has managed to provide universal health care to its entire population. Canada's inexpensive prescription drugs are a source of great envy to American seniors, who cross the border to make their purchases. However the load placed on the Canadian system by Americans has become a threat. Recently, a Supreme Court of Canada judgement held that Quebec (though not necessarily all Canadian) citizens had a right to buy private health insurance, which is banned in Canada though private health care isn't.
An August 22-27 public opinion poll of Canadians revealed that a majority believed U.S. foreign policy was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. Seventy-seven percent of the respondents in Quebec and 57 percent od respondents in Ontario expressed that idea. Source: "New poll says most Canadians blame U.S. for 9/11 attacks." September 7, 2006. CBC.ca
Canada is officially a "compact between nations" formed after the Seven Years War, which recognised the British dominance of New France that resulted from the defeat of French forces on the Plains of Abraham (near Quebec City) in 1759. The stress between the nations continues to this day. Quebecers traditionally resented the perceived control of their economic destiny by English Canadians, though the so-called "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s began a process whereby French Canadians began to assume control of many of the province's businesses. Whether because or in spite of significant social changes in Quebec over the last thirty years, the secessionist ("separatist") movement that began in the 1970s remains very much alive, with support hovering between 45% and 55% in polls.
The separatist Parti Quebecois first achieved power in Quebec in 1976. In 1980 the first referendum on Quebec indepedence was easily defeated with only 40% support. In 1995 a referendum on Quebec independence was defeated by a very narrow 50.6% to 49.4%. Another referendum is expected to occur during the next Parti Quebecois administration, which could happen as early as 2008 - see Quebec sovereignty referendum for an analysis of potential impacts of this. Some believe it could have a cascading and destabilizing effect on both Canada and the United States by encouraging other regional secession in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Newfoundland and perhaps even in California. See Nine Nations of North America for a good analysis. However, it must be said that Quebec is divided from the rest of Canada by its own language, and by significant cultural differences which find no parallel in the differences among US states, Puerto Rico and Hawaii excepted.
Provinces and territories
Canada's 10 provinces and 3 territories(*): Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories(*), Nova Scotia, Nunavut(*), Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory(*)
Seats in Parliament - BC 36, Alberta 28, Sask/Man 28, Ontario 106, Québec 75, Atlantic 32, Territories 3.
For extremely detailed coverage see openpolitics.ca - a wiki devoted to these issues.
Canada's parliamentary system follows the so-called "Westminster" system which originated in Britain. There are few significant formal differences between the British and Canadian systems of government. (One is the existence of the Senate, which though it in many ways mirrors the House of Lords possesses no equivalent of "hereditary peers" -- see below.) Parliamentary systems have historically allowed for Third Parties to play a more active role than they are able to play in presidential systems like the U.S. In fact, in recent years as many as five parties have held enough seats in Canada's Parliament to achieve official party status. See the recent Canadian Parliamentary Elections. Like the U.S., Canada has a geographically based winner-take-allfirst-past-the-post a.k.a. single member district/plurality electoral system. Each riding elects one Member of Parliament.
Canada is a Commonwealth Realm, which means that the British monarch remains the Canadian head of state. She acts through her Governor General for Canada, who appoints the Prime Minister (who must hold the confidence of Parliament, in effect meaning the leader of the majority party), dissolves Parliament (normally at the Prime Minister's request), and signs bills into law. If one party has a majority of members, that party forms the government and a cabinet is chosen from its members to advise the Prime Minister and head the various government departments. If no party has a majority, then there is a minority government led by the party with the most seats.
The Canadian legislature, like the American, is bicameral. In addition to the elected House of Commons, there is an unelected upper chamber, the Senate. Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister and sit until retirement (mandatory at age 75). Electoral districts, or ridings, are smaller than American districts (308 districts for 32 Million people, or about 1 per 100,000 population). More detail about how the system works can be found at Elections Canada.
Canadian courts have generally followed what is known as "progressive constitutionalism" -- the adaptation of constitutional norms to changing political circumstances. There is no sacred "founding text" for Canada (the British North America Act of 1867 apportions power between provincial and federal levels of government, but says nothing about the rights of citizens), though the 1982 Charter of Rights now plays a major role in jurisprudence and legislation.
Visit Culture.ca for more information on Canadian politics, political process and parties.
- Conservative Party of Canada (Conservatives, or Tories) -- recently reformed by the merger of the traditional Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance Party. Since the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) lost power in a landslide in 1993, Canada's right-wing parties have never managed to win more than a third of the popular vote, though they dominate the west, Alberta in particular. The Canadian Alliance was itself a descendant of the Reform Party, which began as a break-away western faction of the PCs, upset over the party's obsession with placating Quebec. The western wing of the Conservative party remains extremely socially and fiscally conservative, which has created significant tensions within the party, dividing it both from the socially liberal Ontario Tories, and the fiscally liberal Tories of the Atlantic provinces. The current leader, Stephen Harper, though from Toronto, draws his support from the western, ex-Reform wing of the party, and is viewed with suspicion both by eastern Tories and by Canadians in general. He has done himself no favours by surrounding himself with a circle of American neo-conservative academics based at the University of Calgary.
- Bloc Québécois (BQ - the Quebec nationalist ("sovereigntist") party; generally leans left on most issues; appeals to Quebec's electorate but has no chance of, and no interest in, making in-roads in other provinces. This party is unofficially an arm of the provincial Parti Quebecois (PQ).
- New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) - the socialist/labo[u]r party; good old-fashioned leftists. They have formed provincial governments, but have never held power federally. Their first and most important leader was Tommy Douglas, who was recently voted the Greatest Canadian and who is the grand-father of the terrorist-fighting actor Kiefer Sutherland.
- Liberal Party of Canada (Liberals, or Grits) - a moderate, pro-market, pro-free trade, pro-balanced budget party. The Liberals have shifted between the centre-left, centre, and centre-right, following their leaders and prevailing political winds. During the seventies, under Pierre Trudeau, they ruled almost as social democrats. Since resuming power in 1993 they have taken a hard line on belancing budgets, but have at the same time introduced significant progressive social legislation, including supporting medical marijuana and legalising gay marriage. The Liberals have held power for nearly all of the twentieth century, giving them a massive majority in the Senate and allowing them to appoint most of the current Supreme Court Justices.
Smaller federal parties
By far the largest of the smaller parties, and often reported on as a major party:
- Green Party of Canada - Green Party of Canada Home Page covered extremely extensively at openpolitics.ca due to
- Marijuana Party of Canada - generally libertarian, several provincial allied parties; completely legalizing marijuana is their central issue, but the platforms are growing; making strong gains in provincial elections across the country, especially in rural areas. The Marijuana Party of B.C. is the strongest of these.
- Canada Action Party (CAP) - a Canadian nationalist party founded by Paul Hellyer, who abandoned the project for the NDP eventually.
- Rhinoceros Party of Canada - formerly the main Canadian joke party until the Canadian Alliance was formed.
- Natural Law Party - a favorite of people who think the RHINO Party takes things too seriously: NLP promises to levitate the parliament building with transcendental meditation and protect the country with flying yogis. Funded in part by famed magician Doug Henning.
Native Insurgent Organizations
Canada stretches from the northern border of the United States to the North Pole. Canada is the second largest country in the world at over 6 million square miles and shares a 5,526 mile border with the United States. The country is rich in natural resources with vast reserves of petroleum, minerals and huge swathes of forests. However, most of the northern reaches are essentially uninhabitable with most larger cities occuring within close proximity to the southern border.
Provinces (west to east)
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
The territories are not considered provinces. The city of Toronto has an active movement for full provincial status, see Province of Toronto. Cape Breton, an island that composes the easternmost part of Nova Scotia, has agitated for territory or separate province status, and has actually filed suit against the province for its share of Canadian federal equalization funds.
Canada has a population of just over 32 million residents, slightly less than California. Canada has a net immigration rate nearly twice that of the US (6.01 migrant(s)/1,000 pop. vs. 3.52 migrant(s)/1,000 pop.) but continues to suffer from a significant emigration of professionals to the United States.
- British Isles origin 28%
- Mixed background 26%
- French origin 23%
- other European 15%
- Amerindian 2% - see First Nations (Canada)
- Other (mostly Asian, African, Arab) 6%
Canada is an advanced post-industrial market economy with a business culture very similar to the United States. It is a member of the G7 and one of the most affluent countries in the world. In 2002 Canadian GDP was estimated at $934 billion; per-Capita GDP would be $29,300 (2002 US per-Capita GDP: $36,300). Canada signed the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US in 1989 and NAFTA with the US and Mexico in 1994. It is the United States' most important trading partner consuming ~23% of US exports (Mexico ~14%). The US consumes ~88% of Canadian exports.
- Michael Ignatieff - ex Harvard professor elected in Toronto in 2006, seeking leadership of Liberal party
- Stephane Dion - former cabinet minister and author of the Clarity Act, also seeking leadership of Liberal party
- Carolyn Bennett - participatory democracy champion, seeking leadership of Liberals
- Ken Dryden - champion hockey goalie, former social services minister, now seeking leadership of Liberals
- Bob Rae - former NDP Premier of Ontario, pompous ass, now seeking leadership of Liberals
- Ralph Klein - current Conservative Premier of Alberta, infamous ass, many hilarious quotes, retiring early
- Lloyd Axworthy - well known human rights advocate
- Diane Finley - current Cabinet Minister
- Constance Fogel - current leader of the CAP
- Paul Hellyer - founder of the CAP
- Colin Kenny
- Jack Layton - leader of the NDP
- Stephen Harper - current Prime Minister
- Paul Martin - former Prime Minister, still in parliament
- Pierre Trudeau - former Prime Minister, deceased
- Elizabeth May - well known environmentalist seeking office for the Greens
- Carolyn Parrish - retired MP known for stomping on a George Walker Bush doll on TV and making an ass of Tucker Carlson (though this latter is not very hard to do) - thrown out of the Liberals by Paul Martin to suck up to Bush
- Sheila Copps - former Deputy PM, well known for complaining about Martin's takeover of the Liberals
- David Orchard - former Progressive Conservative, now bitter enemy of Peter MacKay
- Peter MacKay - current foreign affairs minister, former head of PC party dissolved in
defiance of deal with Orchard
- Belinda Stronach - another bane of MacKay's, former girlfriend who ditched him the same day she switched parties and joined Paul Martin's cabinet; once Liberal leader contender
- Americas.org News and Commentary: Canada
- Government of Canada website
- CIA World Factbook
- For more information on Canadian Politics visit Canada's Cultural Gateway Culture.ca
- Charles Blattberg. 2003. Shall We Dance: A Patriotic Politics for Canada. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0773525475.
There is also a remarkably crabbed article on Canada (Republican view). This article is on the Democratic, i.e. sympathetic, view of Canada, as per Dkosopedia policy.