Canada’s Political System

What kind of political system does Canada follow?

Canada’s political system is a democratic federation with three levels of government, as follows:

  • Municipal: The municipal governments are in charge of the day to day running of the cities. Led by a mayor, the city councils control items like local policing, garbage collection, road repairs, parks and libraries.
  • Provincial: The provinces are responsible for administering the provincial health care system, licensing drivers and vehicles, setting curriculums for the school boards, administering social assistance payments, and more. Each province has a Premier and a number of elected MPPs, or members of provincial parliament. The Premier selects which MPPs will be appointed to provincial ministerial positions.
  • Federal: The federal government ensures that the provinces are maintaining acceptable standards of health care, education and social services. It is also in charge of taxation, immigration, foreign policy, the issuing of passports and social insurance numbers, and more. Canada’s government is led by a Prime Minister and MPs, or members of parliament. The Prime Minister determines which MPs will serve as federal cabinet ministers.

Canada’s Head of State is the reigning monarchy of England, currently HRH Queen Elizabeth II. She is represented by Lieutenant Governors at the federal level as well as in each province. The Lieutenant Governors are responsible for the dissolution of governments, the calling of elections, the swearing in of new governments, and more.

The capital city of Canada is Ottawa, Ontario. The iconic Parliament Hill is the location the two Houses of Parliament: the upper house, which is called the Senate, and the lower house, which is called the House of Commons. The House of Commons is occupied by the MPs, who are responsible for tabling legislation, debating its impacts, and passing new laws. The Senators are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor on the advice of the Prime Minister, and are tasked with ensuring that the House of Commons acts in the best interests of Canadians.


How are elections conducted?

Canada and each of the provinces are divided into geographical areas called ridings, or wards. The candidate in each riding who wins the most number of votes becomes the MP or MPP for that riding, depending on whether it is a federal or provincial election. The winner then takes their “seat” in the federal or provincial government.

The Prime Minister and the provincial Premiers are elected through proportional representation rather than by direct ballot. What this means is that the leader of the political party that wins the most seats becomes the Prime Minister in the case of a federal election, or the Premier in the case of a provincial election.

Electoral districts are divided into geographical areas known as ridings. The candidate with the most votes in the riding in which he or she is standing for office wins the authority to act in the best interests of the riding by taking his or her “seat” in Parliament.

Municipal elections are also based on a system of wards and are conducted in a similar fashion, with city councillors and school board trustees being elected by winning the most number of votes. The biggest differences between a municipal election and other elections are that the candidates do not have affiliations to any political party, and that the mayor is elected by direct ballot.

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