The Provinces

Canada is a federal democracy made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories. The difference between a province and a territory is that a province is a self-governing state-within-a-state with its own laws and legislature and economy, while a territory is administered directly by the federal government in Ottawa.

Each province has its own jurisdictional powers managed by an elected legislature. In the Canadian constitution (see the post “The Government of Canada”), these powers include power over roads, education, health care, business, communications, property, police, municipal governance and taxation. Natural resources, defence, criminal law, foreign affairs and inter-provincial transportation and trade, among other things, remain under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

As such each of the 10 provinces have developed their own cultures and way of life. Indeed, each province is so different from the next that travelling across Canada can feel like travelling through 10 different countries!

In this blog we will explore each province on its own; this post is an overview of the system that has created these unique places in the world.The 10 provinces are, from east to west: Nova Scotia (NS), Prince Edward Island (PEI), New Brunswick (NB), Newfoundland & Labrador (NLD), Quebec (PQ), Ontario (ON), Manitoba (MB), Saskatchewan (SK), Alberta (AB) and British Columbia (BC).

The three territories, all located in the Canadian Arctic, are, from east to west, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon.Each province has its provincial capital and its provincial fame (although most people in the world have never heard of PEI, Manitoba, New Brunswick or Saskatchewan). The capitals and famous places of each province are listed below:

Nova Scotia

Capital City: Halifax
Largest City: Halifax
Famous for: lobster, the South Shores, the Bay of Fundy and Cape Breton Island, the Bluenose, bagpipes, fiddles,

Prince Edward Island

Capital City: Charlottetown
Largest City: Charlottetown
Famous for: golf, apples and Anne of Green Gables

New Brunswick

Capital City: Fredericton
Largest City: Moncton
Famous for: the Bay of Fundy, lobster

Newfoundland & Labrador

Capital City: St. John’s
Largest City: St. John’s
Famous for: fishermen, drinking, Screech (alcohol), cod fish, Irish culture, rugged landscape,


Capital City: Quebec City
Largest City: Montreal
Famous for: French language, seperatist movements, nightlife (Montreal), old-European feel, 1969 Summer Olympics, Expo, Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team, McGill University, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion,


Capital City: Toronto
Largest City: Toronto
Famous for: Toronto region, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, the Canadian Shield, nickel, Universities, sports, industry, the 401 super-highway, the CN Tower, Brock University, U of T (University of Toronto), Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey team, Toronto Blue Jays MLB baseball team, Toronto Raptors NBA basketball team, the Guess Who, Rush, Shania Twain,Manitoba

Capital City: Winnipeg
Largest City: Winnipeg
Famous for: prairies, native north-americans, mosquitoes, the Winnipeg Jets hockey team (sold off in 1996, yet every restaurant and hotel and house and car carries a Jets emblem, hoping they’ll return).


Capital City: Regina
Largest City: Saskatoon
Famous for: very, very flat land, Ukrainian immigrants,


Capital City: Edmonton
Largest City: Calgary
Famous for: Cowboys, the Calgary Stamped rodeo, oil, steak, prairies, Rocky Mountains, 1988 Winter Olympics, the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey team, big money, big skies, trans-Canada railway, Chinooks (sudden summer days in the middle of winter), -40 winters, native North-Americans, conservatism,

British Columbia

Capital City: Victoria
Largest City: Vancouver
Famous for: hippies, fish, lumberjacks, fishermen, rocky coastlines, UBC (University of British Columbia), wild nature, ancient rainforest, US draft-dodgers, 2010 Winter Olympics, Nelly Furtado, Brian Adams,
Each province has its own unique character. While the Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick) are uniquely Scottish-German-Irish in character, with Celtic culture and a deep attachment to the sea, Quebec remains strongly French and nationalistic. Newfoundland & Labrador considers itself not-really-a-part-of-Canada (they joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949) and has a unique language and cultural identity. Ontario is considered by many to be “Little America” with its bustling industry and super-cities and rampant free-market capitalism, while the prairies provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta offer the more adventurous a taste of the wild-west. British Columbia is the land of peaceful hippy-like new-age spirituality mixed with social liberalism and a succesful economy.

In the next installments we’ll explore each of these provinces on their own.


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