In order to ensure that social programs such as health care and education are funded consistently throughout Canada, the "have-not" poorer provinces receive a proportionately greater share of federal " transfer equalization payments " than the richer, or "have", provinces do; this has been somewhat controversial.
The richer provinces often favour freezing transfer payments, or rebalancing the system in their favour, based on the claim that they already pay more in taxes than they receive in federal government services, and the poorer provinces often favour an increase on the basis that the amount of money they receive is not sufficient for their existing needs. Particularly in the past decade, some scholars have argued that the federal government's exercise of its unlimited constitutional spending power has contributed to strained federal-provincial relations.
This power, which allows the federal government to spend the revenue it raises in any way that it pleases, allows it to overstep the constitutional division of powers by creating programs that encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. The federal spending power is not expressly set out in the Constitution Act, ; however, in the words of the Court of Appeal for Ontario the power "can be inferred" from s.
A prime example of an exercise of the spending power is the Canada Health Act , which is a conditional grant of money to the provinces. Regulation of health services is, under the Constitution, a provincial responsibility. However, by making the funding available to the provinces under the Canada Health Act contingent upon delivery of services according to federal standards, the federal government has the ability to influence health care delivery. Except for three short-lived transitional or minority governments, prime ministers from Quebec led Canada continuously from to early Monarchs, governors general, and prime ministers are now expected to be at least functional, if not fluent, in both English and French.
In selecting leaders, political parties give preference to candidates who are fluently bilingual. Also, by law, three of the nine positions on the Supreme Court of Canada must be held by judges from Quebec. This representation makes sure that at least three judges have sufficient experience with the civil law system to treat cases involving Quebec laws. Canada has a long and storied history of secessionist movements see Secessionist movements of Canada.
National unity has been a major issue in Canada since the forced union of Upper and Lower Canada in The predominant and lingering issue concerning Canadian national unity has been the ongoing conflict between the French-speaking majority in Quebec and the English-speaking majority in the rest of Canada. Quebec's continued demands for recognition of its " distinct society " through special political status has led to attempts for constitutional reform, most notably with the failed attempts to amend the constitution through the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord the latter of which was rejected through a national referendum.
Since the Quiet Revolution , sovereigntist sentiments in Quebec have been variably stoked by the patriation of the Canadian constitution in without Quebec's consent and by the failed attempts at constitutional reform. The court decided that a unilateral declaration of secession would be unconstitutional.
This resulted in the passage of the Clarity Act in With the collapse of the PCs in that election, the Bloc and Liberals were seen as the only two viable parties in Quebec. Thus, prior to the election, any gain by one party came at the expense of the other, regardless of whether national unity was really at issue. The Bloc, then, benefited with a significant increase in seat total from the impressions of corruption that surrounded the Liberal Party in the lead-up to the election. However, the newly unified Conservative party re-emerged as a viable party in Quebec by winning 10 seats in the election.
In the election, the New Democratic Party succeeded in winning 59 of Quebec's 75 seats, successfully reducing the number of seats of every other party substantially. The NDP surge nearly destroyed the Bloc, reducing them to 4 seats, far below the minimum requirement of 12 seats for Official party status. Newfoundland and Labrador is also a problem regarding national unity.
As the Dominion of Newfoundland was a self-governing country equal to Canada until , there are large, though unco-ordinated, feelings of Newfoundland nationalism and anti-Canadian sentiment among much of the population. This is due in part to the perception of chronic federal mismanagement of the fisheries , forced resettlement away from isolated settlements in the s, the government of Quebec still drawing inaccurate political maps whereby they take parts of Labrador , and to the perception that mainland Canadians look down upon Newfoundlanders.
In , the Newfoundland and Labrador First Party contested provincial elections and in in federal ridings within the province.
In , then-premier Danny Williams ordered all federal flags removed from government buildings as a result of lost offshore revenues to equalization clawbacks. John's ,.
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They basically slighted us, they are not treating us as a proper partner in Confederation. It's intolerable and it's insufferable and these flags will be taken down indefinitely. It's also quite apparent to me that we were dragged to Manitoba in order to punish us, quite frankly, to try to embarrass us, to bring us out there to get no deal and send us back with our tail between our legs. Western alienation is another national-unity-related concept that enters into Canadian politics. Residents of the four western provinces, particularly Alberta, have often been unhappy with a lack of influence and a perceived lack of understanding when residents of Central Canada consider "national" issues.
While this is seen to play itself out through many avenues media, commerce, and so on. The Reform Party's slogan "The West Wants In" was echoed by commentators when, after a successful merger with the PCs, the successor party to both parties, the Conservative Party won the election. However, regardless of specific electoral successes or failures, the concept of western alienation continues to be important in Canadian politics, particularly on a provincial level, where opposing the federal government is a common tactic for provincial politicians.
For example, in , a group of prominent Albertans produced the Alberta Agenda , urging Alberta to take steps to make full use of its constitutional powers, much as Quebec has done. Canada is considered by most sources to be a very stable democracy. In , The Economist ranked Canada the third-most democratic nation in its Democracy Index , ahead of all other nations in the Americas and ahead of every nation more populous than itself.
In , Canada was ranked World No. In , the United States was ranked World No. The Liberal Party of Canada , under the leadership of Paul Martin,  won a minority victory in the June general elections. However, in the Liberals lost seats in Parliament, going from of parliamentary seats to of , and from The Canadian Alliance , which did well in western Canada in the election but was unable to make significant inroads in the East, merged with the Progressive Conservative Party to form the Conservative Party of Canada in late They proved to be moderately successful in the campaign, gaining seats from a combined Alliance-PC total of 78 in to 99 in However, the new Conservatives lost in popular vote, going from In , the Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, won a minority government with seats.
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They improved their percentage from , garnering During this election, the Conservatives also made major breakthroughs in Quebec. They gained 10 seats here, whereas in they had no seats.
At the federal election , the Conservatives won a majority government with seats. For the first time, the NDP became the Official Opposition, with seats; the Liberals finished in third place with 34 seats. This was the first election in which the Green Party won a seat, that of leader Elizabeth May ; the Bloc won 4 seats, losing official party status. The Liberal Party, after dominating Canadian politics since the s, was in decline in early years of the 21st century. Furthermore, said Lang a Liberal himself , its prospects "are as bleak as they have ever been.
As a result, the Liberals lost their status as official opposition to the NDP. In explaining those trends, Behiels synthesized major studies and reported that "a great many journalists, political advisors, and politicians argue that a new political party paradigm is emerging"  She claimed they saw a new power configuration based on a right-wing political party capable of sharply changing the traditional role of the state federal and provincial in the twenty-first-century.
Behiels said that, unlike Brian Mulroney who tried but failed to challenge the long-term dominance of the Liberals, Harper's attempt had proven to be more determined, systematic and successful. Many commentators thought it signalled a major realignment. The Economist said, "the election represents the biggest realignment of Canadian politics since The realignment saw both old parties of the moderate middle, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, either eliminated or marginalized.
Despite the grim outlook and poor early poll numbers, when the election was held, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau had an unprecedented comeback and the realignment was proved only temporary. Gaining seats, they won a majority government for the first time since Funding changes were made to ensure greater reliance on personal contributions. Personal donations to federal parties and campaigns benefit from tax credits, although the amount of tax relief depends on the amount given.
Also only people paying income taxes receive any benefit from this. A good part of the reasoning behind the change in funding was that union or business funding should not be allowed to have as much impact on federal election funding as these are not contributions from citizens and are not evenly spread out between parties.
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They are still allowed to contribute to the election but only in a minor fashion. For the initial disbursement, approximations were made based on previous elections. The NDP received more votes than expected its national share of the vote went up while the new Conservative Party of Canada received fewer votes than had been estimated and was asked to refund the difference. Quebec was the first province to implement a similar system of funding many years before the changes to funding of federal parties. Federal funds are disbursed quarterly to parties, beginning at the start of For the moment, this disbursement delay leaves the NDP and the Green Party in a better position to fight an election, since they rely more on individual contributors than federal funds.
The Green Party now receives federal funds, since it for the first time received a sufficient share of the vote in the election.
All three limits increase on 1 April every year based on the inflation rate. The highest court in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada and is the final court of appeal in the Canadian justice system.
The Supreme Court Act limits eligibility for appointment to persons who have been judges of a superior court, or members of the bar for ten or more years. Members of the bar or superior judge of Quebec, by law, must hold three of the nine positions on the Supreme Court of Canada. The Canadian government operates the public service using departments, smaller agencies for example, commissions, tribunals, and boards , and crown corporations. There are two types of departments: central agencies such as Finance, Privy Council Office, and Treasury Board Secretariat have an organizing and oversight role for the entire public service; line departments are departments that perform tasks in a specific area or field, such as the departments of Agriculture, Environment, or Defence.
Scholar Peter Aucoin, writing about the Canadian Westminster system, raised concerns in the early s about the centralization of power; an increased number, role and influence of partisan-political staff; personal-politicization of appointments to the senior public service; and the assumption that the public service is promiscuously partisan for the government of the day.
In , Canada established a point-based system to determine if immigrants should be eligible to enter the country, using meritorious qualities such as the applicant's ability to speak both French and English , their level of education, and other details that may be expected of someone raised in Canada. This system was considered ground-breaking at the time since prior systems were slanted on the basis of ethnicity. However, many foreign nationals still found it challenging to secure work after emigrating, resulting in a higher unemployment rate amongst the immigrant population.
After winning power at the federal election , the Conservative Party sought to curb this issue by placing weight on whether or not the applicant has a standing job offer in Canada.