State and politics
Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three
territories. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of CA and its meanings of Canada. The legislative power is exercised by a
two-chamber parliament: the senate, with 105 members
appointed by the government on a regional basis, and the
lower house, with 308 members elected in general elections
in one-man constituencies.
The two chambers have formally the same status, but in
practice all legislative power has come to lie in the lower
house. Elections to the lower house must be held at least
every four years (permanent mandates were introduced in
2007). The Senate's main task is to review legislative
proposals. The head of state is Elizabeth II, who is also
Queen of Canada and there represented by a Governor General,
who usually holds the post for five years.
The voting age is 18 years.
The provinces have their own governments and
single-chamber parliaments, which are responsible for, among
other things, education, care and the social welfare system.
Territories have gradually gained greater autonomy, but the
federal government still has control over, for example,
issues related to natural resources.
Quebec has chosen as the only province not to sign the
constitution, but still follows it in practice. Quebec
stands out by having its own Charter of Human Rights.
Political parties exist at both federal and provincial
levels. Canadian politics was dominated in the 1990s by two
major parties, the Liberal Party (LP) and the Progressive
Conservative Party (PC), which alternately held power. From
1993 and a few years into the 2000s, no party could
challenge the Liberals' power holdings at the federal level.
In 2006, however, the Liberals were defeated by the
Conservative Party of Canada (CP), formed three years
earlier. The Conservatives retained government power until
2015, when the Liberals regained control.
The Liberal Party, which is a broad middle party with
strong support among academics and senior officials, ruled
Canada 1968-84 (with the exception of a short period
1979-80) with the charismatic Pierre Trudeau as prime
minister and party leader. The party returned to power in
1993 under the leadership of Jean Chrétien, who after over
ten years as prime minister handed over to Paul Martin in
2003. After a decline in the 2004 election, Martin was
allowed to lead a minority ministry. He resigned as party
leader after the election defeat in 2006. Liberal Party
continued to lose voters in the 2008 and 2011 elections to
the lower house before the party won a landslide victory in
elections in 2015, now under the leadership of Pierre
Trudeaus son Justin Trudeau. The Liberal Party became the
largest party even in the 2019 elections, but the party lost
its majority and Justin Trudeau was to form a minority
government. The Liberals have their strongest support in
eastern Canada and to some extent in British Columbia.
The Conservative Party of Canada was formed in 2003 when
the PC merged with the Canadian Alliance, a right-wing party
based in western Canada. This had in turn been formed three
years earlier by a merger of the right-wing populist Reform
Party and several smaller right-wing parties. When the
Conservative Party of Canada was formed, several leading PC
members jumped from the new party, which was dominated by
the Canadian Alliance, which had a more conservative
appearance than the PC on social issues. The minority
government, led by Stephen Harper, who ruled Canada during
the period 2006-11, pursued a relatively moderate policy.
That changed after the 2011 election, when Harper and his
party gained their own majority in the lower house and were
able to pursue a more pronounced right-wing policy. Harper
resigned as party leader after the 2015 election. Party
leader since 2017 is Andrew Scheer (born 1979). CP has its
main support in the western part of the country.
The larger parties also include the New Democratic Party
(NDP), a social democratic party with the support of the
trade union movement and the universities. Until 2011, the
NDP had limited success at the federal level, despite a
strong position in several provinces. In the 2011 election,
the party stepped forward and took over the Liberal Party's
role as the country's second largest party, a position the
party lost in the 2015 elections. The NDP backed even more
in the 2019 elections. Quebec but which has no strong
support outside that province. After several weak elections,
BQ managed to achieve a great success in 2019, when almost
every third voter in Quebec voted for the party. The Green
Party of Canada, which emphasizes environmental and climate
issues, is now also in the lower house.
In the 2011 election, Stephen Harper got his own majority
in the House of Commons, which meant that the Conservative
Party (CP) could decide its policy direction on its own and
pass a series of laws.
CP's political program included a more restrictive asylum
policy that made it easier to reject asylum seekers. The
punishment for a number of crimes was sharpened and
environmental and climate issues were prioritized. A
controversial electoral law was passed, which limited the
election authority's ability to conduct information
campaigns to get more adult Canadians to vote.
The October 2015 parliamentary election was a defeat for
the Conservative Party as the Liberal Party gained its own
majority in the House of Commons. CP became the second
largest party and the Social Democratic New Democratic Party
(NDP) came in third place.
On November 4, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau took office
as prime minister. His government consisted of as many women
as men and had several ministries from ethnic minorities.
Trudeau promised new investments in the climate, more money
for families with children, better conditions for the
indigenous peoples and a new foreign policy, where the UN
would again play a central role.
The former Conservative government sent troops to Iraq in
2014 to participate in US-led air strikes against the
Islamic State terror group. Under Trudeau, the bombers were
withdrawn and the Liberal government emphasized humanitarian
efforts and training the Iraqi army. In connection with the
war in Syria, Canada received about 60,000 refugees from
Syria until December 2018.
Initially, Trudeau had high opinion numbers, but they
gradually fell. The Prime Minister was criticized for
promising too much. This was particularly noticeable in
environmental and climate policy, where Trudeau pledged to
bring about climate change while trying to keep up with the
oil industry and approve several controversial oil
pipelines. In 2019, the government also introduced a new
federal carbon tax in the four provinces that did not have
Unsurprisingly, Trudeau's Liberals lost votes in the 2019
parliamentary elections. His party still managed to become
the largest party, despite the conservative CP getting a
slightly higher share of the votes (34.4 percent compared to
33.1 percent for the Liberals). The big surprise of the
election was Bloc Québécois (BQ) which pleads for an
independent Quebec, which came in third place. The election
also became a clear illustration of how divided Canada is
again politically, where the Liberals were strong in the
eastern part of the country, while remaining completely
without a mandate in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. The
Conservatives, on the other hand, had strong support in the
Prairie provinces, where carbon dioxide tax and climate
policy aroused strong opposition.
After the election, Trudeau formed a minority government.
In Canada, on the one hand, there is a distinction
between federal and provincial laws and courts. Both the
substantive legal rules and the judicial organization vary
in many respects between the provinces. However, all
provinces except Quebec have legal systems that originate
from and are still inspired by English law, while the legal
system in Quebec has its roots in pre-revolutionary French
law. The judicial system of the provinces consists mainly of
petty courts, general courts and a supreme court and
appellate court respectively. At the federal level, there is
a Federal Court of Canada whose courts of appeal
and appellate jurisdiction primarily deal with federal or
federal court cases, and a Supreme Court of common law for
both criminal and litigation (Supreme Court of Canada).
The death penalty was abolished in 1998; the last execution
took place in 1962.
In the international community, Canada acts as a defender
of human rights and usually takes on the role of peacemaker.
Although the Canadian Charter of Freedoms and Rights
provides a strong protection of civil and political rights,
like the rest of the majority of the world's countries,
violence against women is a widespread problem. In Canada's
case, women from the various indigenous groups are
over-represented when it comes to sexual and fatal violence.
They are also more often subjected to police harassment.
Canada generally stands out negatively in terms of
indigenous living conditions. These are under-represented in
the labor market and over-represented among citizens in need
of social assistance. Suicide, poverty and chronic diseases
are also more frequent among the indigenous peoples compared
to other groups.
||John A. Macdonald
||John A. Macdonald
||William Lyon Mackenzie King
||William Lyon Mackenzie King
||Richard Bedford Bennett
||William Lyon Mackenzie King
||Louis Saint Laurent
||Joseph (Joe) Clark