Understanding Your Place In Canadian Politics

Politics can be confusing, even those who’ve studied it. Which branch of government holds power? How does it relate to the average Canadian? Who do you contact if you have a problem? These questions can be tough to answer if you are not well versed on the subject.

Canadian politics is a broad topic, but the system can be easily understood by stripping away the various titles and branches and breaking it down into three levels; municipal, provincial and federal.

Municipal Government

Responsible for cities, towns, and regions. Mayors and city councillors are the elected officials at this level of government. They oversee local police and firefighters, parking, small roads, residential and industrial planning, transportation, and local by-laws.

Municipalities are subject to the will of the provincial government in their province, and their power varies greatly. The provincial government is capable of stepping in a superseding the authority of municipalities,  and even disbanding them if deemed necessary.

Provincial Government

Provincial governments have far more authority than municipalities and share governance with officials at the federal level. Provincial political parties may have the same names as those at the federal level—Liberal, Conservative and NDP—but it is important to note that these parties are separate. It is not uncommon for a Premier and Prime minister to have same party label, but have very different views.

The Premier and cabinet ministers set the provincial budget, and assert the direction of the province. They are responsible for healthcare, criminal justice, labour, welfare, education, highway and road regulations, civil rights, and many other areas; however, their authority can come into dispute, and at times be overridden by the federal government.

The approaching legalization of Marijuana is an example of this power struggle. Many of the provinces have requested more time and information before going forward but were mandated to come up with their own individual plans for regulation, despite their objections.

Federal Government

Responsible for national defence, foreign politics, law and order, distribution of natural resources, banking and taxation, just to name a few. The federal government balances the needs of the provinces by way of equalization payments, ensuring that regions with weaker economies, benefit from the progress of those with stronger.

Members of parliament(MPs) are elected from ridings in each province and sent to the House of Commons, providing a voice in parliament for all Canadians.

The federal government is the face of Canada, and represent us on the international stage. The fluid nature of democracy means that the country can change direction very quickly. For this reason, the Prime Minister is often targeted for policies that he/she inherited from previous administrations.

Who to contact when you have an issue

Few people know that you can reach out to your elected officials on a municipal, provincial, or federal level. Politicians are servants of the public, but too often we are led to believe that they exist in a bubble, beyond our influence. The chances are that you will not be able to get a direct line to Prime Minister Trudeau, but your MP might.

If you’re upset about the parking tickets or potholes, reach out to your city council. If you have problems with hospitals or the education system, contact your provincial Government. Or, if you are angry at the direction of your country, let your MP know, and they will go to bat for you. In the event you do not remember the names of your elected officials, just punch your address in any search engine, and you can quickly find out.

Politics can be frustrating, but you can cut through the fluff by contacting the people you put in power.