November 22, 2015

Something I Know Nothing About - Canadian Politics

I considered taking the time to learn about something like "How do hot air balloons work?" or, "How do honey bees make honey?"... but I realized that neither of those things are really important and that I should take the time to learn about something far more useful.

The Canadian political process.

I never paid much attention to politics growing up, and it wasn't until the most recent Federal Election campaign in 2015 did I start paying much attention to how it all works.

It is not my area of expertise (I'm more of a physical science kind of person rather than social/political sciences), but it's definitely something useful to learn about - which is why I'm sharing this with you all today. I did my research, I talked to some experts, and I feel confident in educating you all about how the Canadian political process works (in a very simple way, of course).


Altogether, Canada has three levels of government: Federal, Provincial/Territorial, and Municipal.

Federal: made up of people from every province/territory in Canada. Leaders in this government are called MP's. The most MPs elected in a political party forms the Federal Government. The House of Commons - made up of MPs - forms all of Canada's laws. The senate has to review the laws that are proposed. Overall, the head of government is the Prime Minister, who chooses MPs to represent the House of Commons, and chooses senators to represent the senate. Oh, and Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada (yes, we have a Queen).

Following me so far? Good.

Provincial: made up of people within the province. Representatives are called the Member of Provincial Parliament (this is where you've heard the term MPP before) and they each come from a political party. Here, the Lieutenant Governor represents the Queen (I know, very fascinating that we have a Queen). The Legislative Assembly makes provincial laws - made up of MPPs. The leader of all MPPs is called the Premier.

I hope you haven't given up on me yet.

Municipal: made up of people from your neighbourhood, town, city, etc. that have a good understanding of your communities needs. The community elects a Mayor and Council members to lead the local government.

Make sense? Cool, cause I'm not done.

How does a federal election work?

As of 2015, Canada had 338 ridings. Each riding has one MP. Overall, there are 18 registered political parties in Canada, and each party nominates one candidate for each riding. During a federal election, and based on Canadian voters, federal political parties will win seats in the House of Commons.
The party that wins the most ridings will be asked by the Governor General to form the government, and the leader of that party will become the Prime Minister of Canada.

Federal campaigns work at two levels - local and national. Party leaders will tour the country, making high-profile photo op visits in electorally important cities and towns, and most news coverage will focus on what they say and do ("Justin Trudeau... he's just not ready" is a good example). Locally, the men and women running for seats in the House of Commons will campaign exclusively in their own electoral districts, handing out flyers, knocking on doors and participating in local candidates' debates.

Oh, and if you didn't already know, Sir John A. MacDonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada (and if you reeeeaaallly didn't know that, you probably aren't a true Canadian).

Inspired by my dear friends studying Political Science and International Development at Dalhousie University -- you guys rock and encourage me to learn more about the way our world works each and every day.

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