5974461 Section EC

5974461 Section EC

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5974461 Section EC

In Canada, being a successful leader implies being able to satisfy the demandsof
various groups of individuals. However, governance is complicated due to our diverse
environment, economy and population distribution. In addition, historic developments
have partially contributed to the development of regionalism, which further complicates
governance. This paper will first focus the discussion on regionalism, more precisely
regionalism in the West. We will also examine our multicultural society and the diversity
in values, and finally we will briefly examine other political cleavages in our society.
The alienation of the West

Natural resources contribute to the prosperity, or lack thereof, of regional
economies. The inequities pertaining to the uneven distribution of resources result in an
uneven distribution of wealth and employment opportunities. Consequently, different
regions have different demands from the federal government. Throughout history, these
demands have often resulted in conflicts and tensions with the federal government, which
contributed to the development of regionalism. Considering that the vast majority of
Canadians are concentrated in Quebec and Ontario, and the fact that these two provinces
generate more than half of the country’s GDP, it is clear how these provinces can
influence the decisions of the government (Statistics Canada, 2011). The issue of political
concentration is critical in understandingregionalism, and the difficulties that it brings
along. We will use the example of the West to demonstrate how previous decisions
rendered by the government have impacted and will continue to impact the political
landscape in Canada.
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The Athabasca oil sands located in Alberta make Canada the third largest oil
reserve in the world (Government of Alberta, 2012). Primarily as a result of the
petroleum industry that fostered in Alberta, the province has a strong economy. In 2010,
the GDP per capita in Alberta was $70,826 compared to the Canadian average of
$47,605. As energy prices continue to rise, the economy is expected to gain as extracting
and exploring the oil becomes increasingly attractive (Statistics Canada, 2012). However,
Alberta has not always benefit as much from its natural resources. In fact, when Alberta
and Saskatchewan joined the Canadian Confederation in 1905, they were not
immediately granted the rights that other provinces had, namely they did not have control
over natural resources. The reason for not granting these rights was because Ottawa
wanted to retain control over the rapid economic development in the West (Brooks, 2011,
p. 111). As a matter of fact, the West was often discriminated and penalized by the
federal government. The policies enacted by the federal government to develop and
sustain the new economy benefitted primarily Central Canada, i.e. Ontario and Quebec.
Freight rates established under the National Policy served the purpose to discourage
“manufacturing investment and development in the West.” (Mebs, 2012, S11-L8). In
addition, “high tariffs raised the cost of agricultural production and thus detracted from
the profits of Western farmers” (Mebs, 2012, S11-L8). More recently, the National
Energy Policy of 1981 “placed a limit on the price that could be charged in Canada for oil
and gas from Canadian sources” (Brooks, 2011, p. 112). The price charged to Canadian
industries was often below the market price and thus limited the economic development
of the oil sands as every export first had to be approved by the National Energy Board.
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The West, from the time of Confederation, has viewed these types of policies as
discriminatory and enacted for the advantage of Central Canada. As it was stated already,
the vast majority of the population is concentrated in Quebec and Ontario. As a result of
the mechanisms of our political system, the majority of the seats in the House of
Commons are allocated to Quebec and Ontario. Consequently, “many policies coming
from the federal government remained in the interests of Ontario and Quebec” (Mebs,
2012, S12-L8). Because the West was not well represented in Parliament, the demands
and needs of Westerns have been often been ignored. Although the current situation is
not as bleak, tensions still exist between the federal government and the West. To
illustrate, we will discuss equalization payments. Setting aside the issue of effectiveness,
the program works by redistributing wealth. Alberta and Saskatchewan are the richest
provinces in Canada and thus contribute greatly to the program. As a result, leaders of
those provinces have often criticized the program. Bard Wall, the Premier of
Saskatchewan has criticized the program because it creates “distortions, often of a
significant scale, that impair the national economy and discourage people from moving to
places of economic opportunity” (Taber, 2012). Not surprising, the richer provinces have
expressed discontent on the way Ottawa deals with poorer provinces, namely Quebec,
which is generally allocated large equalization payments (7.3B$ in 2012-13!) (Mebs,
2012, S25-L8). Issues such as the equalization program complicates governance, as
policy makers have to consider issues such as how equalization payments are calculated
and how they are distributed. Regionalism is not a phenomenon only present in the West.
Regionalism can be felt across the country
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Multiculturalism & Demographics
Canada is a multicultural society known to tolerate, respect and recognize group
rights. While a multicultural society has its advantages, one consequence of such a
diverse population is a potential lack of consensus on political issues as a result of diverse
values. Logically, diversity in values can occur as a result of shifts in immigration
patterns. However, as we will illustrate, it is not the only factor, as values are dynamic,
not static, and therefore it is possible for them to change over time. The divides on
political issues can make governance more complex and has important political
As it can be expected, Canada’s demographics have considerably changed since
Confederation.Traditionally, immigrants were predominantly of European origins. In
fact, in 1871, 92% of the population identified their ethnic origin as either French or
British, with the remaining 8% identified as other(Brooks, 2011, p. 435). However,
during the period of 1950 to 1970, the composition of immigrants has changed as Canada
started to rely greatly on immigrants from other European countries.But it was not until
recently that visible minorities started to make up the majority of immigrants entering
Canada. In fact, immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and the
Caribbean “grew to about 77.7 per cent of all immigrants during the 1991-2001 decade
and just under 80 per cent for the years 2001-6”(Brooks, 2011, p. 436). It is a dramatic
contrast, considering that approximately 95% of immigrants before 1961 were
ofEuropeans decent(Brooks, 2011, p. 435). Individuals arriving from non-traditional
areas, i.e. non-European countries, brought with them values, traditions, and religions
that were different from native-born Canadians.
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Thus, as a result of immigration, we have the multicultural society that we know
today.Consequently, the values reflected throughout our society are all but homogeneous.
Variations in political culture can create politically significant cleavages that have the
power to “affect political support and political behavior” (Mebs, 2012, S5-L7) and in
turn, influence elections and the creation and operation of political parties. These diverse
values shape people’s political desires, demands, and political affiliations. Therefore,
politicians, more then ever before, have to consider the composition of the population
before enacting laws. Issues such as abortions, same-sex marriage, and religious freedom
are examples of issues that often become political as we try to satisfy the wide range of
demands. As time passes it is possible that “shifting immigration patterns and a possible
divergence in values between immigrants and native-born Canadians may eventually
contribute to the formation of a new political cleavage in Canadian society” (Mebs, 2012,
S2-L10). The accommodation of different religious practices is such a cleavage that made
headlines in recent history. In 2011,Quebec’s National Assembly barred the Kirpan, a
ceremonial dagger required to be worn after being baptized, from the legislative buildings
(Seguin, 2011).
The ethnic composition of Canada is not the only element that has changed.
Several other facets of our society such as families, sexuality, and disability, have
important political implications today. On average families are smaller. Couples marry
less, instead opting to live in common-law partnership and have fewer children. Increased
acceptability of homosexuality has increased the number of same-sex couples. These
changes can be partially explained by the decreasing importance of religion in society.
Furthermore, the number of individuals with disabilities is greater than before; in fact “a
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great proportion of the population is disabled today than at any point in Canada’s
history”(Brooks, 2011, p. 438). These changes in demographics have to be considered by
politicians as they reflect changes in values. For example, issues such as should abortion
clinics receive government funding, should same-sex marriage be allowed, how should
we accommodate religious traditions, etc. are all sensitive topics because the population
is divided and there is potential to create conflict among groups of individuals.
Socio-economics and geography
Finally, we will briefly examine the political implication of socio-economics,
more precisely class politics. It is not surprising that several economic classes exist in our
society considering our economic system. Socio-economic status plays an important role
in politics as different classes have different demands from the government.Classes are
defined not only by wealth, but also by education, occupation and power. Furthermore,
inequality that arises from uneven distribution of wealth can “breed tension between
groups” (Mebs, 2012, S3-L9). Inherent to the system, conflicts occur as the working class
strives to amass enough wealth to move up the economic ladder, while the upper class,
i.e. the individuals that have the means of production, strives to gain additional wealth by
“keeping wages low and productivity high” (Mebs, 2012, S5-L9). Issues such as
minimum wages, limits on working hours, and the protection of workers arise. These
issues are extremely important because they can impact the “voting behaviour, behaviour
toward political institutions, and the formation of political parties” (Mebs, 2012, S7-L9).
Lastly, as our economy started to decrease its reliance on agriculture because of
industrialization, migration from rural to urban occurred. Today, 78% of Canadians live
in an urban area (Mebs, 2012, S22-L9). However it was not always easy as “many lacked
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the skills needed to prosper in a modern industrial society and as such had to take on
unskilled lower-level jobs” (Mebs, 2012, S20-L9). In the 1960s, the government
developed infrastructures in rural areas to allow for better education institutions to be
established. They were designed to facilitate the transition of farmers to urban areas.
Today, rural Canada is different any many dimensions from urban Canada. Differences in
cultural, social and economic dimension can be observed. Because of these differences
they have different political demands and political preferences. In contrast, the urban
areas, in addition to creating high paying jobs, have also created “part-time, short-term
and non-unionized jobs which are low-paying and offer few benefits” which “creates a
great deal of tension in urban centers and governments have to develop new policies in
attempts to remedy this” (Mebs, 2012, S7-L29). These examples illustrate the different
problems, and demands that politicians must consider.
To conclude, as we have seen, Canada’s diverse environment, its economy and its
population distribution make it a complex country to govern, as it is hard to
simultaneously please many groups of people. We have seen how regional economies are
influenced by different sectors of the economy and how as a result wealth is unevenly
distributed among provinces. In addition, we have seen how different classes have
different needs from the government. And finally how immigration has changed our
population and as a result the way elections are won.
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Works Cited
Brooks, S. (2011). Canadian Democracy. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.
Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta’s Oil Sands. Retrieved September 30, 2012,
from Government of Alberta: www.oilsands.alberta.ca/
Mebs, K. (2012). Lesson 7: The French-English Divide. Retrieved 10 18, 2012, from
Introduction to Candian Politics:
Mebs, K. (2012). Lesson 8: The French-English Divide. Retrieved 10 18, 2012, from
Introduction to Candian Politics:
Mebs, K. (2012). Lesson 9: The French-English Divide. Retrieved 10 18, 2012, from
Introduction to Candian Politics:
Mebs, K. (2012). Lesson 10: The French-English Divide. Retrieved 10 18, 2012, from
Introduction to Candian Politics:
Seguin, R. (2011, 02 19). Sikh community speaks out against Quebec kirpan ban .
Retrieved 10 18, 2012, from Globe and Mail:
Statistics Canada. (2012, April 27). Gross domestic product by industry: Provinces and
territories, 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Gross domestic product by
industry: Provinces and territories, 2011: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/dailyquotidien/120427/dq120427a-eng.htm
Statistics Canada. (2011, November 8). Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, by
province and territory . Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Gross domestic product,
expenditure-based, by province and territory : http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tablestableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/econ15-eng.htm
Taber, J. (2012, 01 10). Equalization and EI hurt Saskatchewan, Premier says .
Retrieved 10 18, 2012, from Globe and Mail:


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