- Politics

Comparison of Canadian and American Political Systems

People outside of the “Americas” can often get confused understanding and comparing the differences between the US and Canadian models, forms and structures of government.

In the United States there are 50 states with a federal government. The subunit, that is each state, has its own governor and state legislature. The federal government of course of the USA, has at its head the President (currently President Obama) along with 2 houses of legislature. These are the US House of Representatives (with local elected members referred to as “Congressmen” or perhaps “Congress Women” and the US Senate with “Senators” elected from each and every state. There are many more Congress people per state than elected Senators over all. Some will tell you that Senators carry much more power and clout than the Congressmen in the House of Representatives, whereas in Canada it’s not the Canadian Senate and Senators who wield the greatest power and effect changes.

Whereas Canada has a federal and provincial system. There is one overall Federal Government with given responsibilities and 10 more local or Provincial Governments along with 3 “Territories” – not fully assigned fully rights and privileges under the Canadian political system yet. Whereas in the US political system Americans vote for their representatives and then the leader overall (that is the President), Canadians vote for members of Parliament only. Firstly the Canadian Senate as opposed to the US model are not elected at all. Instead they are “appointed” by the ruling party – that is the political party in power federally in the Federal House of Parliament which is located in Ottawa in the eastern province of Ontario. The federal political leader in Canada is not elected for his position. Rather he is the leader of the party with the most seats in the house – that is the ruling party in charge. Interestingly it is the party in power, not the people directly as in the US who chose their ultimate political leader. It might be argued and debated that ultimately it is the Canadian people by voting for their elected representatives who sit in the House of Parliament in Ottawa who make the choice via their votes to their own elected leaders. On the other hand it might be said that party and its “Whip” ensure that sitting members in the House of Parliament tow the party line, when it comes to votes and policy as opposed to the elected officials themselves.

Two things can be summarized though – one is that Canada has a Prime Minister chosen by the residing political party in power and those Senators are appointed by that same group as opposed to being elected as in the US. Generally Canadian Senators don’t carry a lot of power, nor use it. To many in Canada the Senate is seen as a left over, a hold over from the British model, which is mainly ceremonial and indeed one might say serves for ongoing reasons of patronage and rewarding old political favors and friends.

Canada currently has 308 Members of Parliament. The Federal or National Government of Canada has as its base the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ontario. This Federal Government setup among its many and varied duties and responsibilities for the military, foreign trade and trading as well as partial or in many cases full funding for numerous social programs available to Canadian residents and citizens, criminal laws and their enforcements as well providing for and managing cash money production and supply as well as fiscal policies.

Members of Parliament typically deal with their constituents needing help with such social programs and provision such employment insurance, the Canadian Pension Plan disability insurance immigration and the like. On the other side of the fence the 10 Provincial Governments are primarily responsible for the administration, implementation of public health itself – Canada has a socialized not for profit medical system, Included are the management of hospitals as hospitals are considered government funded and run for the most part. As well education and departments of education are a more local provincial jurisdiction. Lastly provinces themselves are also involved with the implementation and management of the varied social programs which they provide for and administer, which is of course in addition and supplements those provided for by the federal authorities.

It should be pointed out as well that at the helm of the Federal and Canadian Provincial Governments is more experienced political staff – that is elected officials who are appointed by their party – that is generally the party in power to serve as senior officials in charge of various departments and portfolios. These positions are referred to as Ministerial Appointments with the Minister being in charge of a given department or sets of departments under their portfolio.

Both the Canadian and American political systems function well in their own milieu. Each setup has its advantages and disadvantages and were set up, or evolved in terms of what was there as a predecessor and also what particular needs and duties were involved. The US system in particular is set up with “checks and balances” being intrinsic so that the system buttresses and polices itself. The Canadian system is set and functions rather differently. The point being however in the end, both Americans and Canadians are generally well afforded and served by their retrospective political systems.

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