Provinces and territories of Canada

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For "Canadian Province" as used in biology, see Circumboreal Region.
'O Canada we stand on guard for thee' Stained Glass, Yeo Hall, Royal Military College of Canada features arms of the Canadian provinces and territories (1965)

The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. In 1867, three provinces of British North AmericaNew Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (which, on the formation of Canada, was divided into Ontario and Quebec)—united to form the new nation. Since then, Canada's external borders have changed several times, and the country has grown from the original four provinces to ten provinces and three territories. The ten provinces are Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The three territories are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.

The major difference between a Canadian province and a territory is that provinces receive their power and authority from the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly called the British North America Act, 1867), whereas territorial governments have powers delegated to them by the federal government. This means that while a change to the division of powers between the federal government and the provinces requires a constitutional amendment, a similar change affecting the territories can be performed unilaterally by the federal Parliament or government. Moreover, in modern Canadian constitutional theory, the provinces are considered to be co-sovereign divisions, and each province has its own "Crown" represented by the lieutenant governor, whereas the territories are not sovereign, but simply parts of the federal realm, and have a commissioner who represents the federal government.

Location of provinces and territories[edit]

A clickable map of Canada exhibiting its ten provinces and three territories, and their capitals.
VictoriaWhitehorseEdmontonYellowknifeReginaWinnipegIqaluitTorontoOttawaQuebecFrederictonCharlottetownHalifaxSt. John'sNorthwest TerritoriesSaskatchewanNewfoundland and LabradorNew BrunswickVictoriaYukonBritish ColumbiaWhitehorseAlbertaEdmontonReginaYellowknifeNunavutWinnipegManitobaOntarioIqaluitOttawaQuebecTorontoQuebec CityFrederictonCharlottetownNova ScotiaHalifaxPrince Edward IslandSt. John'sA clickable map of Canada exhibiting its ten provinces and three territories, and their capitals.
About this image


Capital[1]Largest city
(by population)[2]
Entered Confederation[3]Population
(May 2011)[4]
Area: land (km2)[5]Area: water (km2)[5]Area: total (km2)[5]Official language(s)[6]Federal Parliament: Commons seats[7]Federal Parliament: Senate seats[7]
Flag of Ontario.svgArms of Ontario.svgOntarioONTorontoTorontoJuly 1, 186712,851,821917,741158,6541,076,395EnglishA10624
Flag of Quebec.svgCoat of arms of Québec.svgQuebecQCQuebec CityMontrealJuly 1, 18677,903,0011,356,128185,9281,542,056FrenchB7524
Flag of Nova Scotia.svgArms of Nova Scotia.svgNova ScotiaNSHalifaxHalifaxCJuly 1, 1867921,72753,3381,94655,284EnglishD1110
Flag of New Brunswick.svgArms of New Brunswick.svgNew BrunswickNBFrederictonSaint JohnJuly 1, 1867751,17171,4501,45872,908EnglishE
Flag of Manitoba.svgArms of Manitoba.svgManitobaMBWinnipegWinnipegJuly 15, 18701,208,268553,55694,241647,797EnglishA,F146
Flag of British Columbia.svgArms of British Columbia.svgBritish ColumbiaBCVictoriaVancouverJuly 20, 18714,400,057925,18619,549944,735EnglishA366
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svgArms of Prince Edward Island.svgPrince Edward IslandPECharlottetownCharlottetownJuly 1, 1873140,2045,66005,660EnglishA44
Flag of Saskatchewan.svgArms of Saskatchewan.svgSaskatchewanSKReginaSaskatoonSeptember 1, 19051,033,381591,67059,366651,036EnglishA146
Flag of Alberta.svgShield of Alberta.svgAlbertaABEdmontonCalgarySeptember 1, 19053,645,257642,31719,531661,848EnglishA286
Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.svgArms of Newfoundland and Labrador.svgNewfoundland and LabradorNLSt. John'sSt. John'sMarch 31, 1949514,536373,87231,340405,212EnglishA76
Total provinces33,369,4235,499,918563,0136,062,931305102


A.^ De facto; French has limited constitutional status
B.^ Charter of the French Language; English has limited constitutional status
C.^ Nova Scotia dissolved cities in 1996 in favour of regional municipalities; its largest regional municipality is therefore substituted
D.^ Nova Scotia has very few bilingual statutes (three in English and French; one in English and Polish); some Government bodies have legislated names in both English and French
E.^ Section Sixteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
F.^ Manitoba Act

Provincial legislature buildings[edit]


There are three territories in Canada. Unlike the provinces, the territories of Canada have no inherent jurisdiction and have only those powers delegated to them by the federal government.[8][9][10] They include all of mainland Canada north of latitude 60° north and west of Hudson Bay, as well as all islands north of the Canadian mainland (from those in James Bay to the Canadian Arctic islands). The following table lists the territories in order of precedence (each province has precedence over all the territories, regardless of the date each territory was created).

Territories of Canada
Capital and largest city[1]Entered Confederation[3]Population
(May 2011)[4]
Area: land (km2)[5]Area: water (km2)[5]Area: total (km2)[5]Official languagesFederal Parliament: Commons seats[7]Federal Parliament: Senate seats[7]
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svgCoat of arms of Northwest Territories.svgNorthwest TerritoriesNTYellowknifeJuly 15, 187041,4621,183,085163,0211,346,106Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey, Tłįchǫ[11]11
Flag of Yukon.svgCoat of arms of Yukon.svgYukonYTWhitehorseJune 13, 189833,897474,3918,052482,443English
Flag of Nunavut.svgCoat of Arms of Nunavut.pngNunavutNUIqaluitApril 1, 199931,9061,936,113157,0772,093,190Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut,
English, French[13]
Total territories107,2653,593,589328,1503,921,73933

Territorial legislature buildings[edit]

Territorial evolution[edit]

When Canada was formed in 1867 its provinces were a relatively narrow strip in the southeast, with vast territories in the interior. It grew by adding British Columbia in 1871, P.E.I. in 1873, the British Arctic Islands in 1880, and Newfoundland in 1949; meanwhile, its provinces grew both in size and number at the expense of its territories.
CANADA TIMELINE: Evolution of the borders and the names of Canada's Provinces and Territories

Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are the original provinces, formed when British North American colonies federated on July 1, 1867, into the Dominion of Canada and by stages began accruing the indicia of sovereignty from the United Kingdom.[14] Ontario and Quebec were united before Confederation as the Province of Canada. Over the following six years, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island were added as provinces.[14]

The Hudson's Bay Company maintained control of large swathes of western Canada referred to as Rupert's Land until 1870, when it turned the land over to the Government of Canada.[15] Manitoba and the Northwest Territories were created in 1870 from Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory.[15] The Northwest Territories were vast at first, encompassing all of current northern and western Canada, except for the Arctic Islands and British Columbia; also included were the northern two thirds of Ontario and Quebec, and almost all of Manitoba, the province of Manitoba originally being confined to a small area in the south of today's province.[16] On September 1, 1905, a portion of the Northwest Territories south of the 60° parallel became the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.[16] In 1912, the boundaries of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba were expanded northward: Manitoba's to the 60° parallel, Ontario's to Hudson Bay and Quebec's to encompass the District of Ungava.[17]

1905 Provinces and territories of Canada coat of arms postcard

In 1869, the people of Newfoundland voted to remain a British colony over fears that taxes would increase and the economic policy of the Canadian government would favour mainland industries.[18] In 1907, Newfoundland acquired dominion status.[19] In the middle of the Great Depression in Canada with Newfoundland facing national bankruptcy, the legislature turned over political control to the Commission of Government in 1933.[20] Following Canada's participation in World War II, in a 1948 referendum, a narrow majority of Newfoundland citizens voted to join Confederation and, on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland became Canada's tenth province.[21] In 2001 it was officially renamed Newfoundland and Labrador.[22]

In 1903, the Alaska Panhandle Dispute fixed British Columbia's northwestern boundary.[23] This was one of only two provinces in Canadian history to have its size reduced. The second, in 1927, occurred when a boundary dispute between Canada and the Dominion of Newfoundland saw Labrador increased at Quebec's expense.[24] In 1999, Nunavut was created from the eastern portion of the Northwest Territories.[25] Yukon lies in the western portion of The North, while Nunavut is in the east.[26]

All three territories combined are the most sparsely populated region in Canada covering 3,921,739 km2 (1,514,192 sq mi) in land area.[5] They are often referred to as a single region, The North, for organisational and economic purposes.[27] For much of the Northwest Territories' early history it was divided into several districts for ease of administration.[28] The District of Keewatin was created as a separate territory from 1876 to 1905, after which, as the Keewatin Region, it became an administrative district of the Northwest Territories.[29] In 1999, it was dissolved when it became part of Nunavut.


Main article: Canadian federalism

Theoretically, provinces have a great deal of power relative to the federal government, with jurisdiction over many public goods such as health care, education, welfare, and intra-provincial transportation.[30] They receive "transfer payments" from the federal government to pay for these, as well as exacting their own taxes.[31] In practice, however, the federal government can use these transfer payments to influence these provincial areas. For instance, in order to receive healthcare funding under Medicare, provinces must agree to meet certain federal mandates, such as universal access to required medical treatment.[31]

Provincial and territorial legislatures have no second chamber like the Canadian Senate. Originally, most provinces did have such bodies, known as legislative councils, but these were subsequently abolished, Quebec's being the last in 1968.[32] In most provinces, the single house of the legislature is known as the Legislative Assembly; the exceptions are Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where the chamber is called the House of Assembly, and Quebec where it is called the National Assembly.[33] Ontario has a Legislative Assembly but its members are called Members of the Provincial Parliament or MPPs.[34] The legislative assemblies use a procedure similar to that of the Canadian House of Commons. The head of government of each province, called the premier, is generally the head of the party with the most seats.[35] This is also the case in Yukon, but the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have no political parties at the territorial level.[36] The Queen's representative to each province is the Lieutenant Governor.[37] In each of the territories there is an analogous Commissioner, but he or she represents the federal government rather than the monarch.[38]

Federal, Provincial, and Territorial terminology compared
CanadaGovernor GeneralPrime MinisterParliamentParliamentarian
SenateHouse of CommonsSenatorMember of Parliament
OntarioLieutenant GovernorPremiern/a*Legislative Assemblyn/a*Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP)
QuebecNational AssemblyMember of the National Assembly (MNA)
and Labrador
House of AssemblyMember of the House of Assembly (MHA)
Nova ScotiaMember of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)
Other provincesLegislative Assembly
*There were historically provincial Legislative Councils analogous to the federal Senate in Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and pre-confederation in Lower Canada, Upper Canada, Province of Canada, British Columbia, and Newfoundland. The last of these was abolished in 1968.

Each of the territories elects one Member of Parliament. Canadian territories are each entitled to elect one full voting representative to the Canadian House of Commons.[3] With the sole exception of Prince Edward Island having slightly greater per capita representation than the Northwest Territories.[3] Territories has considerably greater per capita representation in the Commons than every other province, but have more limited autonomy than the provinces.[39] Each territory also has one Senator.[40]

Provincial parties[edit]

Most provinces have provincial counterparts to the three national federal parties. However, some provincial parties are not formally linked to the federal parties that share the same name.[41] The New Democratic Party and Green Party of Canada have integrated membership between the provincial and federal wings.[41] Some provinces have regional political parties, such as the Saskatchewan Party.

The provincial political climate of Quebec is quite different: the main split is between sovereignty, represented by the Parti Québécois, and federalism, represented primarily by the Quebec Liberal Party.[42]

The provincial Progressive Conservative parties are also now separate from the federal Conservative Party, which resulted from a merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance.[43] In most provinces the provincial Liberal Party separated from the federal Liberal Party and are now an independent entities.

Current provincial/territorial governments (2014)
ProvinceLieutenant Governor/
Premier[45]Party in government[45]Majority/Minority
OntarioElizabeth DowdeswellKathleen WynneOntario Liberal PartyMajority
QuebecPierre DuchesnePhilippe CouillardQuebec Liberal PartyMajority
Nova ScotiaJohn James GrantStephen McNeilNova Scotia Liberal PartyMajority
New BrunswickJocelyne Roy-VienneauBrian GallantNew Brunswick Liberal PartyMajority
ManitobaPhilip S. LeeGreg SelingerNew Democratic Party of ManitobaMajority
British ColumbiaJudith GuichonChristy ClarkBritish Columbia Liberal PartyMajority
Prince Edward IslandFrank LewisRobert GhizPrince Edward Island Liberal PartyMajority
SaskatchewanVaughn Solomon SchofieldBrad WallSaskatchewan PartyMajority
AlbertaDonald EthellJim PrenticeProgressive Conservative Association of AlbertaMajority
Newfoundland and LabradorFrank FaganPaul DavisProgressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and LabradorMajority
Northwest TerritoriesGeorge TuccaroBob McLeodConsensus governmentNone
YukonDoug PhillipsDarrell PasloskiYukon PartyMajority
NunavutEdna EliasPeter TaptunaConsensus governmentNone

Ceremonial territory[edit]

Canadian National Vimy Memorial - For First World War Canadian dead and First World War Canadian missing, presumed dead in France.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, near Vimy, Pas-de-Calais, and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, near Beaumont-Hamel, France are ceremonially considered Canadian territory.[46] In 1922, the French government donated the land used for the Vimy Memorial "freely, and for all time, to the Government of Canada the free use of the land exempt from all taxes".[47] The site of the Somme battlefield near Beaumont-Hamel site was purchased in 1921 by the people of the Dominion of Newfoundland.[46] These sites do not, however, enjoy extraterritorial status and are thus subject to French law.

Proposed provinces and territories[edit]

Since Confederation in 1867, there have been several proposals for new Canadian provinces and territories. The Constitution of Canada requires an amendment for the creation of a new province[48] but the creation of a new territory requires only an act of Parliament;[49] therefore, it is easier legislatively to create a territory than a province.

In late 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin surprised some observers by expressing his personal support for all three territories gaining provincial status "eventually". He cited their importance to the country as a whole and the ongoing need to assert sovereignty in the Arctic, particularly as global warming could make that region more open to exploitation leading to more complex international waters disputes.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Provinces and Territories". Government of Canada. 2013. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ Place name (2013). "Census Profile". Statistic Canada. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Reader's Digest Association (Canada); Canadian Geographic Enterprises (2004). The Canadian Atlas: Our Nation, Environment and People. Douglas & McIntyre. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-55365-082-9. 
  4. ^ a b "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, 2011 and 2006 censuses". Statistic Canada. 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Land and freshwater area, by province and territory". Statistics Canada. 2005. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ Olivier Coche, François Vaillancourt, Marc-Antoine Cadieux, Jamie Lee Ronson (2012). "Official Language Policies of the Canadian Provinces". Fraser Institute. Retrieved August 6, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Guide to the Canadian House of Commons". Parliament of Canada. 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Northwest Territories Act". Department of Justice Canada. 1985. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Yukon Act". Department of Justice Canada. 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  10. ^ Department of Justice Canada (1993). "Nunavut Act". Retrieved January 27, 2007. 
  11. ^ Northwest Territories Official Languages Act, 1988 (as amended 1988, 1991-1992, 2003)
  12. ^ "OCOL - Statistics on Official Languages in Yukon". Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Nunavut's Official Languages". Language Commissioner of Nunavut. 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Janet Ajzenstat (2003). Canada's Founding Debates. University of Toronto Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8020-8607-5. 
  15. ^ a b James Stuart Olson; Robert Shadle (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire: A-J. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 538. ISBN 978-0-313-29366-5. 
  16. ^ a b Barry M. Gough (2010). Historical Dictionary of Canada. Wilfrid Laurier University. pp. 141–142. ISBN 978-0-8108-7504-3. 
  17. ^ Atlas of Canada. "Territorial evolution". Retrieved January 27, 2007. 
  18. ^ "Confederation Rejected: Newfoundland and the Canadian Confederation, 1864-1869: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. 2000. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  19. ^ Sandra Clarke (2010). Newfoundland and Labrador English. Edinburgh University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7486-2617-5. 
  20. ^ Trevor W. Harrison, John W. Friesen; Trevor Harrison; John W. Friesen (2010). Canadian Society in the Twenty-first Century: An Historical Sociological Approach. Canadian Scholars’ Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-55130-371-0. 
  21. ^ Raymond Benjamin Blake (1994). Canadians at Last: Canada Integrates Newfoundland As a Province. University of Toronto Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-8020-6978-8. 
  22. ^ Fred M. Shelley (2013). Nation Shapes: The Story behind the World's Borders. ABC-CLIO. p. 175. ISBN 978-1-61069-106-2. 
  23. ^ James Laxer (2010). The Border: Canada, the US and Dispatches From the 49th Parallel. Doubleday Canada. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-385-67290-0. 
  24. ^ A. Oye Cukwurah (1967). The Settlement of Boundary Disputes in International Law. Manchester University Press. p. 186. GGKEY:EXSJZ7S92QE. 
  25. ^ Johnson-shoyama-graduate School (2013). Governance and Public Policy in Canada: A View from the Provinces. University of Toronto Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-4426-0493-3. 
  26. ^ Mark Nuttall (2012). Encyclopedia of the Arctic. Routledge. p. 301. ISBN 978-1-57958-436-8. 
  27. ^ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2002). Oecd Territorial Reviews: Canada. OECD Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 978-92-64-19832-6. 
  28. ^ Carl Waldman; Molly Braun (2009). Atlas of the North American Indian. Infobase Publishing. p. 234. ISBN 978-1-4381-2671-5. 
  29. ^ McIlwraith, Thomas Forsyth; Edward K. Muller (2001). North America: The Historical Geography of a Changing Continent. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-7425-0019-8. 
  30. ^ Gregory S. Mahler (1987). New Dimensions of Canadian Federalism: Canada in a Comparative Perspective. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-8386-3289-5. 
  31. ^ a b Ian Peach (2007). Constructing Tomorrows Federalism: New Perspectives on Canadian Governance. Univ. of Manitoba Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-88755-315-8. 
  32. ^ Jocelyn Maclure (2003). Quebec Identity: The Challenge of Pluralism. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-7735-7111-2. 
  33. ^ Nathan Tidridge (2011). Canada's Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government. Dundurn. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-4597-0084-0. 
  34. ^ Laura Elizabeth Pinto (2012). Curriculum Reform in Ontario: 'Common-Sense' Policy Processes and Democratic Possibilities. University of Toronto Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-1-4426-6158-5. 
  35. ^ Gordon Barnhart (2004). Saskatchewan Premiers of the Twentieth Century. University of Regina Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-88977-164-2. 
  36. ^ Barry Scott Zellen (2009). On Thin Ice: The Inuit, the State, and the Challenge of Arctic Sovereignty. Lexington Books. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-7391-3280-7. 
  37. ^ Nathan Tidridge (2011). Canada's Constitutional Monarchy. Dundurn. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-55488-980-8. 
  38. ^ Corinna Pike; Christopher McCreery (2011). Canadian Symbols of Authority: Maces, Chains, and Rods of Office. Dundurn. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-4597-0016-1. 
  39. ^ Christian Leuprecht; Peter H. Russell (2011). Essential Readings in Canadian Constitutional Politics. University of Toronto Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-4426-0368-4. 
  40. ^ John Courtney; David Smith (2010). The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics. Oxford Handbooks Online. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-19-533535-4. 
  41. ^ a b William Cross (2011). Political Parties. UBC Press. pp. 17–20. ISBN 978-0-7748-4111-5. 
  42. ^ Alain-Gustave Gagnon (2000). The Canadian Social Union Without Quebec: 8 Critical Analyses. IRPP. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-0-88645-184-4. 
  43. ^ J. Peter Meekison; Hamish Telford; Harvey Lazar (2004). Reconsidering the Institutions of Canadian Federalism. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-55339-008-4. 
  44. ^ "Lieutenant Governors and Territorial Commissioners". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  45. ^ a b "Premiers". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  46. ^ a b John Wilson (2012). Failed Hope: The Story of the Lost Peace. Dundurn. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-4597-0345-2. 
  47. ^ "Design and Construction of the Vimy Ridge Memorial". Veteran Affairs Canada. August 8, 1998. Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  48. ^ "Amendment by general procedure". Constitution Act, 1982. Department of Justice, Government of Canada. Retrieved March 17, 2010. "An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1)...notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces." 
  49. ^ Norman L. Nicholson (1979). The boundaries of the Canadian Confederation. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. pp. 174–175. ISBN 978-0-7705-1742-7. 
  50. ^ CBC News (November 23, 2004). "Northern territories 'eventually' to be given provincial status". Retrieved January 27, 2007. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]