Canadian Regionalism in our Political Life
Canada is known worldwide as a nation that incorporates a number of multiregional identities into its national unification. Its population is made up of peoples from a number of different ethnicities, religions, lifestyles, and traditions, all coexisting under one federal government, and one Canadian nationality. Regionalism is not only a symbol of pride to Canada, however, it is also an issue with regards to political proficiency in the Federal government. The vast differences between the regions within Canada make it problematic for the government to represent all requests of its people at a national level. The number of distinct regions in Canada can be detrimental to this process in that it hinders the development of a national vision for the country. It seems hard to imagine that a country as large as Canada can elect a majority government that effectively represents all multi-regional agendas, considering that each party’s agenda seems to favour the interests of a certain region above others. This is evident in the platforms of the parties and the beliefs of their leaders with regards to economic, cultural and social patterns present in Canada. The economic stability of Canada as a nation is greatly influenced, and reliant, on the regions of the country having strong economic bases. From 1867 to the mid 1950s, Canada’s government had no explicit policy of regional development, instead, it directed its economic policy solely on national development. According to Savoie (2003) the idea was that a strong national economy, based on east-west trade and tariffs would benefit all regions (page. 149). WW1 ensued, and this model was vanquished whilst the Great Depression left poorer provinces in devastation. Savoie (2003) also comments that the U.S. has been much more successful in promoting regional balance in its national economy. He remarks that this is because “each state has 2 senators and the senate plays an important role in policy and decision making and impacts national policy making” (page. 163). In Canada, on the other hand, the senate has never been able to establish itself as a credible institution speaking to the interests of the regions (Savoie, 2003, page. 163). Canada is not only home to a number of regions with different economic foundations impacted by politics, but cultures and identities as well. J.M.S Careless (1969) examines the people’s identities in Canada and distinguishes how Canada is not a strong national region, but instead, a grouping of many regions separated due to numerous factors including race, language, class, historical events and even urbanization. He states that the “social patterning of Canada tends to favour regional commitment” (pg. 4) With regards to bringing these regions together under one nation, Wiseman (2007) states that “from a cultural modernization perspective, the evolution of Canada’s national transportation, financial, and communications networks would foster national consciousness and dampen regional identities” (page. 111) He goes on to comment that “to present Canadian political culture as an amalgam of its regional political cultures is to akin to trying to tie a number of water-melons together with a piece of string. Canada’s vast regions are not easily bound together” (page. 114). The people of Canada pride themselves on their cultures and identities. The people of Quebec, for instance, want to become their own nation where they can epitomize their way of life on a larger scale because they place great value on their french identity. The nation’s Aboriginal peoples are also trying to preserve their culture and continuously struggle to have their voices heard due to under representation within the Federal regime. Canada is comprised of such large and diverse communities, that attempting to bring them wholly together under one state creates unfair representation for smaller regions. Wiseman (2007) comments that “regional...
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