Provinces and territories of Canada

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The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second largest country in total area. The major difference between a Canadian province and a territory is that a province receives its power and authority directly from the Crown, via the Constitution Act, 1867, whereas, territories derive their mandates from the federal government.

The current 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 following table is listed in the order of precedence (i.e. when a province entered into Confederation).

Province, with flag Postal abbreviation/
ISO code
Other abbreviations Capital Largest City Entered Confederation Population
Area (km²)
Land Water Total
Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario1 ON Ont. Toronto Toronto July 1 1867 12,891,787 917,741 158,654 1,076,395
Flag of Quebec.svg Quebec1 QC Que., PQ, P.Q. Quebec City Montreal 7,744,530 1,356,128 185,928 1,542,056
Flag of Nova Scotia.svg Nova Scotia2 NS N.S. Halifax Halifax 935,962 53,338 1,946 55,284
Flag of New Brunswick.svg New Brunswick2 NB N.B. Fredericton Saint John 751,527 71,450 1,458 72,908
Flag of Manitoba.svg Manitoba3 MB Man. Winnipeg Winnipeg July 15 1870 1,196,291 553,556 94,241 647,797
Flag of British Columbia.svg British Columbia2 BC B.C. Victoria Vancouver July 20 1871 4,428,356 925,186 19,549 944,735
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svg Prince Edward Island2 PE PEI, P.E.I., P.E. Island Charlottetown Charlottetown July 1 1873 139,407 5,660 5,660
Flag of Saskatchewan.svg Saskatchewan4 SK Sask., SSK, SKWN Regina Saskatoon September 1, 1905 1,010,146 591,670 59,366 651,036
Flag of Alberta.svg Alberta4 AB Alta. Edmonton Calgary 3,512,368 642,317 19,531 661,848
Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.svg Newfoundland and Labrador5 NL Nfld., NF, LB St. John's St. John's March 31 1949 508,270 373,872 31,340 405,212


1 Prior to Confederation, Ontario and Quebec were part of the Province of Canada.
2 Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island were separate colonies before joining Canada.
3 Manitoba was established simultaneously with Northwest Territories.
4 Saskatchewan and Alberta were created out of land that had been part of Northwest Territories.
5 Newfoundland was an independent Dominion within the British Commonwealth prior to joining Canada. The Labrador region had been recognized as a possession of Newfoundland since 1927.


There are currently three territories in Canada. Unlike the provinces, the territories of Canada have no inherent jurisdiction and only have those powers delegated to them by the federal government.[2][3][4] They include all of mainland Canada north of latitude 60° north and west of Hudson Bay, as well as essentially 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 (territories take precedence after provinces regardless of the date of their creation).

Territory, with flag Postal abbreviation/
ISO code
Other abbreviations Capital and largest city Entered Confederation Population
Area (km²)
Land Water Total
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svg Northwest Territories NT N.W.T., NWT Yellowknife July 15 1870 42,514 1,183,085 163,021 1,346,106
Flag of Yukon.svg Yukon YT Y.T., YK Whitehorse June 13 1898 31,530 474,391 8,052 482,443
Flag of Nunavut.svg Nunavut NU NV Iqaluit April 1 1999 31,152 1,936,113 157,077 2,093,190

Note: Canada did not acquire any new land to create Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Nunavut. All of these originally formed part of Northwest Territories.


Canada provinces evolution

Evolution of the borders and 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. 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.

The Hudson's Bay Company maintained control of large swaths of western Canada until 1870, when it turned over the land to the Government of Canada, forming part of Northwest Territories. Manitoba and Northwest Territories were created in 1870 from Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory. At the time, the land comprising Northwest Territories was all of current northern and western Canada, including the northern two thirds of Ontario and Quebec, with exception of the Arctic Islands, British Columbia and a small portion of southern Manitoba. On September 1 1905, a portion of the Northwest Territories south of the 60° parallel became the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. 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.[5]

In 1869, the people of Newfoundland voted to remain a British territory over concerns that central Canada would dominate taxation and economic policy. In 1907, Newfoundland acquired dominion status. In 1933, facing national bankruptcy, the legislature turned over political control to the Commission of Government. Following 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 and final province. In 2001 it was officially renamed Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 1903, the Alaska Panhandle Dispute fixed British Columbia's northwestern boundary. 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 the province of Quebec and the Dominion of Newfoundland saw Labrador increased at Quebec's expense.

In 1999, Nunavut was created from the eastern portion of Northwest Territories. Yukon lies in the western portion of The North, while Nunavut is in the east. All three territories combined are the most sparsely populated region in Canada with about 100,000 people spread across a huge area. They are often referred to as a single region, The North, for organisational purposes. The District of Keewatin was created as a separate territory from 1876 to 1905, after which it became an administration district of Northwest Territories. In 1999, it was dissolved when it became part of Nunavut.

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.[6]


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

Provincial and territorial legislatures are unicameral, having no second chamber equivalent to 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. In most provinces, the single house of the legislature is known as the Legislative Assembly except in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where it is called the House of Assembly, and Quebec where it is generally called the National Assembly. Ontario has a Legislative Assembly but its members are called Members of the Provincial Parliament or MPPs. 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. This is also the case in Yukon, but Northwest Territories and Nunavut have no political parties at the territorial level. The Queen's representative to each province is the Lieutenant-Governor. In each of the territories there is an analogous Commissioner, but he or she represents the federal government and not the monarch.

Federal, provincial, and territorial terminology compared
Canada Governor General Prime Minister Parliament Parliamentarian
Senate House of Commons Senator Member of Parliament
Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Premier n/a* Legislative Assembly n/a Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP)
Quebec National Assembly Member of the National Assembly (MNA)
Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly Member of the House of Assembly (MHA)
Nova Scotia Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)
Other provinces Legislative Assembly
Territories Commissioner Premier

*Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island historically had Legislative Councils, analogous to the federal Senate.

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. With the sole exception of Prince Edward Island having slightly greater per capita representation than the Northwest Territories, every territory has considerably greater per capita representation in the Commons than every other province. Residents of the Canadian territories are full citizens and enjoy the same rights as all other Canadians. Each territory also has one Senator.

Provincial partiesEdit

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. The New Democratic Party is the only party that has integrated membership between the provincial and federal wings. 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 (of which separatism is generally held to be one strain), represented by the Parti Québécois, and federalism, represented primarily by the Quebec Liberal Party. Since 2007, the Official Opposition has been the Action Démocratique du Québec, which advocates what it calls "autonomy", a middle-of-the-road option supporting localized power in the Federal structure. They have no corresponding Federal party, but polls show their base to align with the Federal Conservative Party of Canada.

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. Historically and currently, the Canadian provincial and federal political party evolution is somewhat flexible. Provincial political parties are more stable than Canadian federal political parties.


The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, near Vimy, Pas-de-Calais département, France, is ceremonially considered Canadian territory. In 1922 the French government donated "freely, and for all time, to the Government of Canada the free use of the land exempt from all taxes".[7] However, unlike diplomatic missions it does not enjoy extraterritorial status and is thus subject to French law.

In the past, there has been interest in both Canada and the Turks and Caicos Islands, an overseas UK territory in the Caribbean, for the latter to enter Confederation in some capacity. While no official negotiations are underway, the two have a long-standing relationship and politicians on both sides have actively explored the circumstances under which a political union could be achieved.[8]

See alsoEdit


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