10 Canadian Political Facts

The West Block of the Parliament

The West Block of the Parliament

Wel­come to my new series, the “Cana­dian List of Ten”! Ten weeks, ten posts, ten lists and one hun­dred new Cana­dian things for you, from food to lan­guage, from city to weather.

Cana­dian pol­i­tics takes some time to get used, espe­cially for Euro­peans. The three lev­els of gov­ern­ment are new to us (there are no provinces nor states in Europe) and national pol­i­tics mat­ters are some­what eclipsed by local news, more rel­e­vant to com­mu­ni­ties in this huge country.

  1. Canada is a par­lia­men­tary democ­racy. Par­lia­ment has three parts: the Sov­er­eign (Queen or King), the Sen­ate and the House of Com­mons. Provin­cial leg­is­la­tures com­prise the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor and the elected Assembly.
  2. There are three lev­els of gov­ern­ment: fed­eral (national level), provin­cial (provin­cial level) and munic­i­pal (city level). The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is respon­si­ble for Defence, For­eign pol­icy and for­eign rela­tions, the postal ser­vice, Crim­i­nal law, Immi­gra­tion and Cit­i­zen­ship. The provinces are ter­ri­to­ries are respon­si­ble for Edu­ca­tion and Munic­i­pal insti­tu­tions. They also share respon­si­bil­i­ties with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for mat­ters such as health and trans­porta­tion. The munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment deals with police and fire pro­tec­tion, water and sewer ser­vices, recre­ation and local pub­lic transportation.
  3. Canada has four main polit­i­cal par­ties at the fed­eral level: the Con­ser­v­a­tive Party of Canada, the Lib­eral Party of Canada, the New Demo­c­ra­tic Party and the Bloc Québé­cois. There are another 15 par­ties or so of lesser impor­tance rec­og­nized by Elec­tion Canada. For instance, the Com­mu­nist Party of Canada, the Mar­i­juana Party of Canada and the Work Less Party.
  4. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has three branches: exec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive, and judi­cial. The exec­u­tive branch, rep­re­sented by the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral, is the decision-making branch. The leg­isla­tive branch is made up of the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral, the House of Com­mons, and the Sen­ate and it cre­ates laws. The judi­cial branch admin­is­ters justice.
  5. Canada holds elec­tions for sev­eral lev­els of gov­ern­ment: nation­ally, provin­cially and ter­ri­to­ri­ally, and munic­i­pally. To vote, you must be a Cana­dian cit­i­zen aged 18 and older and be on the vot­ers’ list. Elec­tions Canada, which ensures that Cana­di­ans can exer­cise their demo­c­ra­tic rights to vote and be a can­di­date, is an inde­pen­dent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament.
  6. Elec­tions cam­paigns in Canada are def­i­nitely shorter than in France. The the min­i­mum length of a cam­paign is 36 days and the longest cam­paign lasted 74 days (back in 1926!).
  7. Cana­di­ans do not vote directly for a Prime Min­is­ter. They vote for their local Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP), who sits in the House of Com­mons. These MPs are mem­bers of a fed­eral polit­i­cal party, and gen­er­ally the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Com­mons becomes the Prime Minister.
  8. His­tor­i­cally, the Prime Min­is­ter could ask the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral to call an elec­tion at any time, although one had to be called no later than five years after the last elec­tion. In 2007 the Par­lia­ment passed an act fix­ing fed­eral elec­tion dates every four years, unless the gov­ern­ment loses the con­fi­dence of the House of Com­mons. We recently had an epi­demic of elec­tions, with national elec­tions held in 2004, 2006 and 2008. We avoided an elec­tion in 2009 though.
  9. Tak­ing hol­i­days when you are in pol­i­tics is easy: for instance, Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper just shut down the Par­lia­ment until March. The Con­ser­v­a­tive Party holds the record for shut­ting down Par­lia­ment: 148 days over just four years in office.
  10. Canada has had a num­ber of polit­i­cal scan­dals. In 2004, the spon­sor­ship scan­dal involved the mis­use and mis­di­rec­tion of funds dis­bursed through the Lib­eral government’s 1990s spon­sor­ship pro­gram. In 2008 there was the Julie Couil­lard scan­dal: Con­ser­v­a­tive For­eign Min­is­ter Maxime Bernier resigned after leav­ing sen­si­tive NATO doc­u­ments in the home of Julie Couil­lard, an ex-girlfriend with links to the Hells Angels biker gang!

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Tell Harper to go back to work! :p He wasn’t elected to take long vaca­tion when­ever it’s con­ve­nient to him!

  2. @Seraphine — Not too many sex­ual scan­dals actu­ally in Canada come to think of it… Dur­ing the Clin­ton scan­dals, French were just like “what’s the big deal?” 😆

    @Linguist-in-Waiting — Canada is sup­posed to be a pot coun­try. I must be really naïve cause I don’t see it though.

    @Nigel Babu — I love the way you put it! Yes, much big­ger num­bers in India, for sure. What’s the pop­u­la­tion size? Did you inherit the sys­tem from the British?

    @Seraphine — Lazy bastards…

    @barbara — The offi­cial rea­son is that he wants to wait till the Olympics are over. The real rea­son IMO is that he doesn’t want the inquiries about the Afghan detainees tor­ture case to progress. The Con­ser­va­tors are still strong but in a bit of trou­ble right now.

    @Bluefish — I know, so unfair!

  3. Well, we did inherit the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem from the British, but with 1.17 bil­lion peo­ple, I doubt if its effec­tive enough. But as a friend of mine put it, “Democ­racy is not a good form of gov­ern­ing, but com­pared to the alter­na­tives, its the best we have.“
    .-= Nigel Babu´s last blog ..Back­ing up with APTonCD =-.

Leave A Reply

Enjoying this blog? Please spread the word :)