Chapter 1 Chapter Overview & Learning Objectives

Overview of Canadian Politics

Why should a student take an introductory course on Canadian politics? Besides allowing the student to become more informed about government and politics in Canada, the course acts as an initial educational step on the path to many different higher education degrees and/or careers.

This initial chapter serves to highlight Canada’s decentralized diversity, as well as to clarify those core concepts that are essential to the lexicon of Canadian government and politics. The authors also introduce core institutional features and how it applies to specific issues and concepts throughout the book. Finally, the authors conclude the chapter with a synopsis of the remaining chapters and basic structure of the book.

Three maxims (or truths) of Canadian politics are identified and elaborated on through most of the chapter. The first concerns those cleavages—especially geography, demography and ideology—that divide and distinguish Canadians. The second concentrates on institutions in the form of representative democracy, independent judiciary, constitutional monarchy, federalism, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Finally, the authors provide a succinct history of how Canada has evolved since the late 1800s by focusing on three specific eras of Canadian politics.

As the rest of the subsequent chapters do, Chapter 1 raises a topic for class debate/discussion to dig deeper inside Canadian politics. Each chapter also focusses on a “professor profile”, and this chapter introduces and profiles Gina Starblanket from the University of Calgary. The discussion topics include issues relating to indigenous politics (specifically on reconciliation), regionalism, federalism, political cleavages, and other issues relating to the Canadian legislature and the parliamentary system. Other questions for discussion are also raised in the text: whether social media makes democracy better or worse and how Canada’s government can be made more democratic in how it communicates.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, students should be able to:

  • understand critical concepts in respect to the Canadian political system including policy, democracy, government, power, state, jurisdiction, federation, sovereignty, and citizen
  • identify the main cleavages in Canadian politics, especially in regards to geography, demography, and ideology
  • understand how institutions are used to address cleavage differences, specifically the challenges associated with situating indigenous and non-indigenous politics within the same political system
  • discuss the major issues faced in Canada’s political history and appreciate how the country has evolved to its current stage
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