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Impact of Regionalism on Canadian Politics

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Impact of Regionalism on Canadian Politics


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The concept of regionalism has been used to show the economic, social, and political differences that exist among the regions of Canada since the days of confederation. Historically, Canada has evolved in different ways depending on the location, leaving a region pretty much different from another. One of the major reasons for this difference can be seen through the geography of Canada (“Canada: A Pluralist History,” 2003).

The natural land forms which are present in the Western Canada, such as the prairies, are much different from the coastal proximity, for example, of Atlantic Canada.

The weather in relation to the diverse geographical distinctiveness of Canada attributes to the different life styles in these regions, eventually changing their identities. This causes disparity in economies of the regions, in turn affecting the political agenda of each region (Segal, 2002).

The concept of regionalism has caused many to attack other regions based on the argument that Central Canada maneuvers the rest of Canada both economically and politically (“Canada: A Pluralist History,” 2003). This sparks a notion of regional identity as opposed to a Canadian Identity. I think that the idea of regionalism forces Canadians to focus on the differences that they have from other Canadians rather than looking towards their common traits. Canadians must not forget the culture that is present in each region as it ultimately affects their position on matters economical and political. Regionalism is basically a result of a geographic area changed into a social area known as a region (Anderson, 2003, p. 26).

The Regions in Canada

Atlantic Canada
Central Canada,
The West,
The North
These regions make up the differences of Canadian identity through the idea of regionalism. These regions vary based on economics, culture, and politics not to mention the geographical differences (Segal, 2002).

Impact on Electoral System

The structure of Canada’s electoral system has resulted in reduced national unity due to regional partitions and the misrepresentation of seat allocation, and the adoption of MMP would provide Canadians with an accountable government precisely reflective of the needs and wants of the electorate (Anderson, 2003, p. 26). Regional and class disagreements resulting from these divisions can minimize national unity, as the regions feel estranged from the federal government that can often come across as arrogant (“Canada: A Pluralist History,” 2003).

Impact on Political Parties

It is also difficult due to regionalism for national institutions, including the political parties, to survive as well as for the leaders to discipline poor performance by backbenchers. The governments are insensitive to the needs of regions not represented robustly in caucus.  Subsequently, electoral systems are often evaluated according to the impact they have on this regional hostility and the resulting inconsistency across provinces (Segal, 2002).

FPTP System and the Impact on Minorities

The FPTP system in Canada has also been condemned for its role in the under-representation of minorities, specifically in ethnically segmented societies. For minorities, continual under-representation in the electoral structure can destroy the legitimacy and fairness of the government (“Canada: A Pluralist History,” 2003).

While the FPTP system has produced many mainstream governments in Canada, representation in Parliament has not served well. The fairness and legitimacy of the process in which FPTP converts votes into seats is often questioned, and reasons for the abolishment of FPTP are abundant (Segal, 2002). A principle criticism of the system is that it encourages regional division. It has been argued that Canada’s electoral system gives parties incentives to exploit regional divisions, creating ‘national’ party conclaves dominated by only a few regions (Anderson, 2003, p. 26).

The Proportional Representation (PR) System

It is clear that losing ability to hold the government accountable is a serious risk and clearly a disadvantage of the PR system, but there is yet one more dilemma that requires examination. Canada is a country with real regional divisions and fabricating an electoral system that moved away from regional depiction might easily backfire, especially with the bulk of the country’s population located in Ontario and Québec. The issue of regionalism in Canada is very serious when dealing with proportional representation (“Canada: A Pluralist History,” 2003). If Canada adopts the PR system, there would be a large explosion of regional parties, and this certainly runs counter to a centralist conception of Canada.

Regionalist and nationalist parties would have unprecedented power over the configuration and agenda of the Canadian government. Countries with cleavages similar to Canada’s, that used the PR system, have automatically led to decentralization. The advantages and disadvantages of adopting a PR system in Canada have been at the heart of all debates for many years (Segal, 2002). A thorough look at the advantages of adopting a PR system demonstrated that there are many benefits, such as an increase in voter turnout and larger political participation among women and minorities (“Canada: A Pluralist History,” 2003). At the same time however, one cannot dismiss the potential negative consequences PR system could have in Canada. The cost of adopting a PR system, combined with the apparent disadvantages the system brings with it, makes it a very unfavorable system in Canada.

Suggestions for Betterment

In an attempt to improve Canadian democracy, there have been several intense debates concerning whether or not the FPTP system is in need of electoral reform. Within this system, the candidate with the highest number of formal votes triumphs, and although it is the simplest system of voting and counting votes, FPTP produces many political consequences which are as follows:

The total number of votes gained by the winning party might be proportionally lower than the number of seats gained.
Women, minority groups, and aboriginals are under-represented because FPTP tends to produce majority governments.
It often distorts public preferences given that most candidates are not elected based on unconditional majorities.
With FPTP, there is a greater risk of declining voter turn out through increased number of wasted votes.
FPTP is inequitable because it works against those parties who have dispersed support in favor of those with more regionally concentrated support.
In efforts to eradicate the pressing issue of regionalism, in Changing the Canadian Electoral System, it is argued that FPTP must ensure political parties include elected members from all the regions. This is because any lawful electoral system should facilitate a fair and equitable representation of the voices of its citizens (Segal, 2002). On the other hand, majority governments that FPTP system has produced are quite stable than the minority governments and under FPTP the party in power is held answerable to its leadership and therefore, it must assume any consequences at elections. If change is to be made to the electoral system of Canada, it should be slow and cautious to ensure that the advantages and disadvantages of alternative systems are given substantial thought and work within the Canadian context (Anderson, 2003, p. 26).


It may be concluded that regionalism is the core concern in the politics of Canada and all the issues can be resolved by making bridges over different regions and bringing them close together. It was not by chance that Canada’s present electoral system has never been reformed and it is not by chance that Canada’s current electoral system is considered one of the best in the world (Segal, 2002). It is a reflection of the Canadian people’s continued concern towards the fairness and democracy and of their willingness to go the extra mile in hunt of excellence in electoral system delivery.

Anderson, G. (2003, May). The Challenge of Regionalism – Canada’s System of Government. World and I, 18, 26. Retrieved October 31, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002532098

Canada: A Pluralist History. (2003, March/April). Canadian Speeches, 17, 54+. Retrieved October 31, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001912148

Gunderson, M. (1996). Regional Productivity and Income Convergence in Canada under Increasing Economic Integration. Canadian Journal of Regional Science, 19(1), 1-23. Retrieved October 31, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002279334

Mooney, C. (2001, July 2). Localizing Globalization. The American Prospect, 12,. Retrieved October 31, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000079671

Segal, H. (2002, July/August). Canadian Foreign Policy and the International Environment. Canadian Speeches, 16, 41+. Retrieved October 31, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000809377

Cite this Impact of Regionalism on Canadian Politics

Impact of Regionalism on Canadian Politics. (2016, Oct 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/impact-of-regionalism-on-canadian-politics/

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