If you were anything like me, it’ll take a while before you get around to figuring out Canada’s political system. So how does politics work here? Let’s start from the top shall we…
The federal government is the highest level of government in Canada. This means that decisions made at this level will impact Canadians all over the country.
Most of you are probably aware of our head of government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Although he’s only been in office for less than six months, he’s already pretty popular outside of Canada (“pretty” being the key word here).
That being said, Canada’s official head of state is still the Queen of England. This is because Canada remains part of the Commonwealth (territories previously part of the British empire). And while it explains why her image graces Canadian currency, the Queen also does some other things that benefit our country.
The federal government also consists of the House of Commons, with elected representatives known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Basically, the House of Commons makes Canada’s laws, which are then reviewed by the Senate (who are selected by the Prime Minister). You can find your MP and read more about parliament’s shenanigans here.
The next level of government makes decisions that affect our province, which in this case is Ontario.
In a nutshell: instead of a Prime Minister, there’s a Premier who is the head of government in Ontario. And instead of MPs, there are Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).
The provincial government is important because it has exclusive jurisdiction over public life that the federal government cannot interfere with (important information if you ever want to differentiate between your MP and MPP).
This also means that education, hospitals, welfare, and other policies can differ between provinces. A good example of this is the different ways alcohol is sold across the provinces. Ontario just approved the sale of beer in grocery stores last year, so that’s good news for us.
The final level of government is the municipal government, which deals with everything Toronto related. Residents of the city of Toronto elect a mayor and council members who lead local government and make decisions about transit, infrastructure, libraries, parks, and garbage disposal (to name a few).
The municipal government is perhaps the most accessible level of government for residents, since members of the public can readily present their concerns to councillors at committee meetings.
Our current mayor is pictured on the left, but you’ve probably read in the news recently about the death of our previous mayor, Rob Ford. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying he was an interesting character who generated quite a bit of scandal in his heyday.
So there you have it. What are your thoughts on Canada’s political system? How does it differ from your own country? Do you think Justin Trudeau uses a liberal amount of shampoo (ha-ha)?
Side note: Political parties are another thing to be aware of, but I won’t touch on them here. It’s enough to know for now that Trudeau and Wynne are Liberal, and Tory is Progressive Conservative.