Changing Politics of Canadian Social Policy

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Canada's egalitarian approach to governance has emphasized social welfare , economic freedom , and multiculturalism , which is based on selective economic migrants , social integration , and suppression of far-right politics , that has wide public and political support. At the federal level, Canada has been dominated by two relatively centrist parties practicing "brokerage politics [a] ", [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] the centre-left Liberal Party of Canada and the centre-right Conservative Party of Canada.

The bicameral Parliament of Canada consists of three parts: the monarch , the Senate , and the House of Commons.

Emphasis on tradition

Currently, the Senate, which is frequently described as providing "regional" representation, has members appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister to serve until age It was created with equal representation from each of Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime region and the Western Provinces. However, it is currently the product of various specific exceptions, additions and compromises, meaning that regional equality is not observed, nor is representation-by-population.

The normal number of senators can be exceeded by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, as long as the additional senators are distributed equally with regard to region up to a total of eight additional Senators. This power of additional appointment has only been used once, when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney petitioned Queen Elizabeth II to add eight seats to the Senate so as to ensure the passage of the Goods and Services Tax legislation.

The House of Commons currently has members elected in single-member districts in a plurality voting system first past the post , meaning that members must attain only a plurality the most votes of any candidate rather than a majority 50 percent plus one. The electoral districts are also known as ridings.

Mandates cannot exceed five years; an election must occur by the end of this time.

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The size of the House and apportionment of seats to each province is revised after every census, conducted every five years, and is based on population changes and approximately on representation-by-population. Canadians vote for their local Member of Parliament MP only. An MP need not be a member of any political party: such MPs are known as independents. When a number of MPs share political opinions they may form a body known as a political party.

The Canada Elections Act defines a political party as "an organization one of whose fundamental purposes is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election. There is no legislation regulating the formation of federal political parties.

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Elections Canada cannot dictate how a federal political party should be formed or how its legal, internal and financial structures should be established. Normally the party leader stands as a candidate to be an MP during an election.

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Canada's parliamentary system empowers political parties and their party leaders. Where one party gets a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, that party is said to have a "majority government. Historically the prime minister and senators are selected by the governor general as a representative of the Queen, though in modern practice the monarch's duties are ceremonial. Consequently, the prime minister, while technically selected by the governor general, is for all practical purposes selected by the party with the majority of seats.

That is, the party that gets the most seats normally forms the government, with that party's leader becoming prime minister. The prime minister is not directly elected by the general population, although the prime minister is almost always directly elected as an MP within his or her constituency. Again senators while technically selected at the pleasure of the monarch, are ceremonially selected by the governor general at the advice and for most practical purposes authority of the prime minister. A minority government situation occurs when the party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons holds fewer seats than the opposition parties combined.

In this scenario usually the party leader whose party has the most seats in the House is selected by the governor general to lead the government, however, to create stability, the leader chosen must have the support of the majority of the House, meaning they need the support of at least one other party.

In Canada, the provinces are considered co-sovereign; sovereignty of the provinces is passed on, not by the Governor General or the Canadian parliament , but through the Crown itself. This means that the Crown is "divided" into 11 legal jurisdictions or 11 "Crowns" — one federal the Crown in right of Canada, and ten provincial, example being the Crown in right of British Columbia,.

Federal-provincial or intergovernmental, formerly Dominion-provincial relations is a regular issue in Canadian politics: Quebec wishes to preserve and strengthen its distinctive nature, western provinces desire more control over their abundant natural resources, especially energy reserves; industrialized Central Canada is concerned with its manufacturing base, and the Atlantic provinces strive to escape from being less affluent than the rest of the country. In order to ensure that social programs such as health care and education are funded consistently throughout Canada, the "have-not" poorer provinces receive a proportionately greater share of federal " transfer equalization payments " than the richer, or "have", provinces do; this has been somewhat controversial.

The richer provinces often favour freezing transfer payments, or rebalancing the system in their favour, based on the claim that they already pay more in taxes than they receive in federal government services, and the poorer provinces often favour an increase on the basis that the amount of money they receive is not sufficient for their existing needs. Particularly in the past decade, some scholars have argued that the federal government's exercise of its unlimited constitutional spending power has contributed to strained federal-provincial relations.

This power, which allows the federal government to spend the revenue it raises in any way that it pleases, allows it to overstep the constitutional division of powers by creating programs that encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. The federal spending power is not expressly set out in the Constitution Act, ; however, in the words of the Court of Appeal for Ontario the power "can be inferred" from s.

A prime example of an exercise of the spending power is the Canada Health Act , which is a conditional grant of money to the provinces. Regulation of health services is, under the Constitution, a provincial responsibility. However, by making the funding available to the provinces under the Canada Health Act contingent upon delivery of services according to federal standards, the federal government has the ability to influence health care delivery. Except for three short-lived transitional or minority governments, prime ministers from Quebec led Canada continuously from to early Monarchs, governors general, and prime ministers are now expected to be at least functional, if not fluent, in both English and French.

In selecting leaders, political parties give preference to candidates who are fluently bilingual. Also, by law, three of the nine positions on the Supreme Court of Canada must be held by judges from Quebec. This representation makes sure that at least three judges have sufficient experience with the civil law system to treat cases involving Quebec laws. Canada has a long and storied history of secessionist movements see Secessionist movements of Canada.

National unity has been a major issue in Canada since the forced union of Upper and Lower Canada in The predominant and lingering issue concerning Canadian national unity has been the ongoing conflict between the French-speaking majority in Quebec and the English-speaking majority in the rest of Canada.


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Quebec's continued demands for recognition of its " distinct society " through special political status has led to attempts for constitutional reform, most notably with the failed attempts to amend the constitution through the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord the latter of which was rejected through a national referendum. Since the Quiet Revolution , sovereigntist sentiments in Quebec have been variably stoked by the patriation of the Canadian constitution in without Quebec's consent and by the failed attempts at constitutional reform.

The court decided that a unilateral declaration of secession would be unconstitutional. This resulted in the passage of the Clarity Act in With the collapse of the PCs in that election, the Bloc and Liberals were seen as the only two viable parties in Quebec. Thus, prior to the election, any gain by one party came at the expense of the other, regardless of whether national unity was really at issue.

The Bloc, then, benefited with a significant increase in seat total from the impressions of corruption that surrounded the Liberal Party in the lead-up to the election. However, the newly unified Conservative party re-emerged as a viable party in Quebec by winning 10 seats in the election. In the election, the New Democratic Party succeeded in winning 59 of Quebec's 75 seats, successfully reducing the number of seats of every other party substantially.

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The NDP surge nearly destroyed the Bloc, reducing them to 4 seats, far below the minimum requirement of 12 seats for Official party status. Newfoundland and Labrador is also a problem regarding national unity.

As the Dominion of Newfoundland was a self-governing country equal to Canada until , there are large, though unco-ordinated, feelings of Newfoundland nationalism and anti-Canadian sentiment among much of the population. This is due in part to the perception of chronic federal mismanagement of the fisheries , forced resettlement away from isolated settlements in the s, the government of Quebec still drawing inaccurate political maps whereby they take parts of Labrador , and to the perception that mainland Canadians look down upon Newfoundlanders.

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In , the Newfoundland and Labrador First Party contested provincial elections and in in federal ridings within the province. In , then-premier Danny Williams ordered all federal flags removed from government buildings as a result of lost offshore revenues to equalization clawbacks.


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  • John's ,. They basically slighted us, they are not treating us as a proper partner in Confederation. It's intolerable and it's insufferable and these flags will be taken down indefinitely. It's also quite apparent to me that we were dragged to Manitoba in order to punish us, quite frankly, to try to embarrass us, to bring us out there to get no deal and send us back with our tail between our legs.

    Western alienation is another national-unity-related concept that enters into Canadian politics. Residents of the four western provinces, particularly Alberta, have often been unhappy with a lack of influence and a perceived lack of understanding when residents of Central Canada consider "national" issues. While this is seen to play itself out through many avenues media, commerce, and so on.

    The Reform Party's slogan "The West Wants In" was echoed by commentators when, after a successful merger with the PCs, the successor party to both parties, the Conservative Party won the election. However, regardless of specific electoral successes or failures, the concept of western alienation continues to be important in Canadian politics, particularly on a provincial level, where opposing the federal government is a common tactic for provincial politicians. For example, in , a group of prominent Albertans produced the Alberta Agenda , urging Alberta to take steps to make full use of its constitutional powers, much as Quebec has done.

    Canada is considered by most sources to be a very stable democracy. In , The Economist ranked Canada the third-most democratic nation in its Democracy Index , ahead of all other nations in the Americas and ahead of every nation more populous than itself. In , Canada was ranked World No. In , the United States was ranked World No. The Liberal Party of Canada , under the leadership of Paul Martin, [42] won a minority victory in the June general elections.