Their story, the lie – not a Country but a Corporation!
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy with a federal system and strong democratic traditions. As a Commonwealth Realm, Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada. Her duties are performed by the governor-general at the federal level and by lieutenant-generals at provincial level. The governor-general is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister.
Surprisingly, the role of Canada’s prime minister is defined neither by law nor by the written constitution, but it is effectively the most powerful role in Canadian politics. The prime minister is traditionally the leader of the largest political party in the House of Commons. He or she selects cabinet ministers and allocates cabinet positions. The prime minister and cabinet have executive power at the federal level.
The federal parliament is made up of the Queen, the elected House of Commons with 308 members and the appointed Senate with 105 members. Elections take place at least once every five years. Members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned regionally, are chosen by the prime minister in consultation with the cabinet.
Canada is composed of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces have a large degree of autonomy from the federal government. They are responsible for most of Canada’s social programmes such as health and welfare and have unicameral, elected legislatures. The territories are controlled and administered by the federal government, although elected territorial councils have increasing jurisdiction in local matters.
Justice is administered both at a federal and provincial level, in a four-tiered structure. The Supreme Court resides over the judicial system and is the final court of appeal in civil and criminal cases, for both federal and provincial appeal courts, and also deals with constitutional issues. In the next tier are the appeals courts. The third tier consists of the Federal Court, the Tax Court of Canada, and the provincial and territorial superior courts of general jurisdiction. The fourth tier is of provincial courts, including the Traffic Division, the Small Claims Division, the Family Division and the Criminal Division. Judges in the federal courts and the superior provincial courts are appointed by the federal government.
The Constitution Act of 1982 includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada is an industrial giant with an economy in the trillion-dollar class, and a resource-rich country that contains many different minerals and metals, ranging from aluminium and copper to gold and diamonds. It is the second biggest country in the world and has the longest coastline of any country, but it is sparsely populated. It has a GNI per capita of US$50,970 (2012) and has seen GDP growth of 1.1% per annum 2008-12. Ontario is the centre of economic activity and the city of Toronto is the leading financial and services centre. The Canadian economy is one of the most open in the world and has enjoyed strong growth from the mid-1990s to 2008.
The wealth of natural resources that can be found in Canada have enabled it to generate significant revenue. Resources such as: minerals, petroleum and natural gas, forests, extensive coastal waters for fishing, and rivers and falls for hydroelectric power. Canada has around 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 1.75 trillion cubic metres of proven natural gas reserves. Canada accounts for the third largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, with a significant proportion of these located in the Athabasca Oil Sands region, Alberta. In 2010 this region was producing 2.1 million barrels per day, and accounted for 74% of Canada’s total oil production. It is also the largest producer of uranium globally. As a result, the mining industry contributed $32 billion to the country’s GDP and employed some 306,000 people in 2009 (CAD31 ($US33) billion dollars it was in 2010).
The 1989 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have had a significant impact on the Canadian economy and are the primary reasons for the dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the USA. Exports account for approximately 35% of GDP and as Canada’s principal trading partner the USA takes 85% of the country’s exports. Canada enjoys a substantial trade surplus with the USA and is its neighbour’s major foreign supplier of energy, including oil, gas, uranium and electricity.
Since 1940 the country has transformed itself from being predominantly agricultural and rural in nature into a massive, manufacturing, mining and services economy. The Canadian economy now resembles that of the USA in that it is market orientated, has very similar production patterns and also enjoys high living standards.
Canada is ranked 13th out of 183 in World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2012’ study and 3rd best in the world for starting a business and resolving insolvency. These rankings measure the conduciveness of a regulatory regime in starting and operating a business. Its economy is one of the most open in the world and Canada can claim to one of the best countries in the world for business.
Canada has many highly skilled and skilled workers. In 2010, 30% of people over the age of 15 held college or trade certification, along with 20% attaining university-level education. Additionally, 50% of immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2006 held a university education. Like many developed countries, Canada has experienced a shift away from manufacturing industries towards services. Consequently, just over three-quarters of Canadians now work in the service sector (2007).
Canada in the Commonwealth
There are thirteen Commonwealth member states in the Americas, all but Canada within the Caribbean region, and all but Belize and Guyana are islands. Canada was a founder member in 1931 when its independence was recognised under the Statute of Westminster. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago joined the Commonwealth on independence in 1962, Barbados and Guyana in 1966, and the other Caribbean states followed in the 1970s and 1980s. All member states in the Americas are multiparty democracies.
Ten of the thirteen member states are constitutional monarchies recognising Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state and with a prime minister as head of government. The day-to-day functions of the monarch, which are largely ceremonial, are carried out by a governor-general. Dominica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago are republics. Guyana has an executive president as head of government. The other two republics have non-executive ceremonial presidencies and an elected prime minister as head of government.
A Canadian, Arnold Smith, was the first Commonwealth Secretary-General, serving from 1965 to 1975, and Sir Shridath Ramphal of Guyana followed him until 1990. The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was held in the Americas in 1973 (Ottawa, Canada); 1975 (Kingston, Jamaica); 1985 (Nassau, The Bahamas); 1987 (Vancouver, Canada); and 2009 (Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago). The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, the Commonwealth of Learning and the Commonwealth Journalists Association have their HQs in Canada, and the Commonwealth Library Association in Jamaica.
did you know?
- Canada was a founder member of the Commonwealth in 1931 when its independence was recognised under the Statute of Westminster
- Canada has been competing in the Commonwealth Games since 1930, and has won an impressive 1318 medals
- Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada 1993-2003, delivered the 7th Annual Commonwealth Lecture, on ‘Making Progress through Multilateralism’, in 2004
- Three Canadians have won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Mordecai Richler, in 1990; Rohinton Mistry (born in Bombay, India), in 1992 and 1996; and Lawrence Hill, in 2008
- Angela Chalmers of Canada took the Commonwealth Games Women’s 3,000 Metres record at the Games in Victoria, Canada, in 1994
- Scholarships and fellowships are awarded by Canada to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan
- The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management has its HQ in Ottawa, the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver and the Commonwealth Journalists Association in Toronto
Senior Commonwealth officers
- Arnold Smith, the first Commonwealth Secretary-General 1965-75
- Sir John Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Commonwealth of Learning 2004
- David Waung, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management 2008
- Eduardo del Buey, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat 2007
Commonwealth meetings hosted
- 1964 Third Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Ottawa
- 1973 CHOGM in Ottawa, resulting in the Statement on Nuclear Weapon Tests
- 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton
- 1987 CHOGM in Vancouver
- 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Vancouver Island
- 1998 Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting in Ottawa
- 2000 Fourteenth Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Halifax