FI-P-493

Organization: External Affairs Canada
Product: Publication
Year: 1974

 


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Geography

Canada is over 3.8 million square miles in area. It is the second – largest country in the world, covering nearly half the North American continent. There are five major geographical regions.

The Appalachian region in the east includes the Atlantic Provinces and part of southeastern Quebec, and consists of rounded hills and undulating plains.

The St. Lawrence Lowlands are an area of fertile, low lying land bordering the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River in southern Quebec and Ontario.

The Canadian Shield is an area of very ancient rock covering about 1.8 million square miles centred on Hudson Bay, extending west and north from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. It is a region of rounded hills, numerous lakes and muskeg ( swamp ). The Shield contains a wealth of minerals.

The Interior Plains extend from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. In Canada, the Shield forms their eastern limit and the Cordilleran region their western limit. In the southern part of the Prairie Provinces, the Plains are unforested and are devoted largely to a grain-growing economy North of the Prairies, the Plains are forested. The rocks of the Interior Plains contain very important deposits of oil , gas and potash.

The Cordilleran region is a strip of mountainous terrain about 500 miles wide that includes most of British Columbia and the Yukon and part of western Alberta. The Canadian Rockies and the Mackenzie Mountains form its eastern ranges; in the west are the St. Elias and Coast Ranges. Between these mountainous areas are rugged plateaux.

Government

Federal 

Canada has a parliamentary system of government established with the adoption of the British North America, Act of 1867, which states “there shall be one Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons”.

Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, is Head of the Canadian State. The Queen’s representative in Canada is the Governor General, who is appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, generally for a five-year period.

The House of Commons and the Senate constitute the legislative arm of the Canadian Government. The judiciary, which consists of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, and several minor courts constituted by Parliament, is independent of both Houses of Parliament.

The House of Commons has 264 members, elected by single-member constituencies, by simple plurality. By custom, the Prime Minister and all other Ministers must have a seat in one House or the other (ordinarily the Commons), or must get one within a reasonable time. There must be an election at least every five years; however, an election usually comes at the end of four years, and may come earlier if some great new issue of policy arises, or if the Government is defeated in the House of Commons and no alternative Government in that House is possible.

Four political parties are at present represented in the House – the Liberal Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Social Credit Party.

Any party that wins more than half the seats in a general election forms the Government. If no party wins more than half the seats, the Government in office may either resign (when the Governor General will ask the Leader of the Opposition to form a new Government) or may meet the new House of Commons and try to obtain enough support from other parties to give it a majority there. If it Governor General asks the Leader of the Opposition to form succeeds, it simply continues in office; if it fails, the a new Government. The Leader of the Opposition then becomes Prime Minister.

One of his first acts is to choose his Cabinet, which is the executive arm of the Government. The Cabinet have the support of the majority of the elected members of formulates national policy; its decisions must, however, the House. The Cabinet Ministers head the various government departments, which are staffed by civil servants administering the affairs of the nation.

The head of the party receiving the second-largest number of seats in a federal election normally becomes Leader of the Opposition in the House. It is the responsibility of the Opposition party, and all other Members of the House of Commons, to examine all actions of the Government and criticize those with which they disagree.

Approval or disapproval of proposals, generally in the form of bills introduced by the Government, and sometimes by private Members, is determined in the House by vote. When the Cabinet (i.e. the Government) loses the confidence of the House, it must either resign or request a dissolution from the Governor General and go to the people in a general election.

The Senate, or Upper House, consists of 102 members appointed on a regional basis by the Governor General on the advice of the Cabinet. The Senate may initiate legislation that does not involve expenditure of public funds. The Senate is required to examine, pass or reject all legislation sent up from the House of Commons. Senators retire at the age of 75.

All Government bills are read three times in both the House of Commons and the Senate before becoming legislation or law. If a bill passes the House of Commons, it may be altered or rejected by the Senate. All bills are given royal assent by the Governor General.

The Canadian Constitution, establishing the Government of Canada and the framework within which the federal and provincial governments share their respective responsibilities, is not incorporated in a single written document. It is rather a combination of enactments, beginning with the British North Amercian Act of 1867, of statutes and Orders in Council and, more significantly, the adherence to parliamentary customs and practices inherited from the British system, upon which Canada’s parliamentary government was modelled.

The major responsibilities of the Federal Government at Ottawa are the control of the nation’s defences and foreign policy, trade and commerce, currency and banking, interprovincial transport, atomic energy and broadcasting.

Provincial

There are ten provincial governments in Canada, each headed by a lieutenant-governor and consisting of an elected legislative assembly.

Provincial governments are responsible for important matters such as education, working conditions, property laws and health, municipal institutions, local prisons and natural resources. Within each province, elected municipal governments deal with local affairs. Each province has its own series of courts, ranging from magistrates’ courts to the provincial superior court.

Lieutenant-governors represent the Crown, and are generally appointed for five-year terms by the Governor General in Council.

Territorial

Both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are represented in the House of Commons, and both have a considerable degree of local self-government.

The government of the Yukon consists of a Commissioner appointed by the Federal Government and a locally-elected Legislative Council, which was increased to 12 members by federal legislation passed early in 1974. Two of these members sit on the Executive Committee, which advises the Commissioner. The government of the Northwest Territories also consists of an appointed Commissioner and a Council, which was increased to 15 elected members by the legislation already mentioned.

More autonomy is being granted to the Territories and many functions, formerly the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government, are gradually being assumed by the governments of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Transportation

Transportation is essential to the survival of a country like Canada, exceeding 3,200 miles in breadth and almost 3,000 miles in depth from its southern border to the northern tip of Ellesmere Island; and the successful development of its vast transportation systems chiefly accounts for Canada’s current status as a prosperous industrial nation.

Most prominent among these systems are the rail ways. Of these, two transcontinental systems, the government-owned Canadian National Railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, provide 89 per cent of all rail transportation. There are approximately 60,000 miles of track throughout the country, and the railways today carry about 38 per cent of the ton-miles of freight and 2 per cent of passenger traffic.

The modernization of Canada’s railway systems in recent years is attested by the complete changeover from steam to diesel locomotion, electronically-operated freight yards, data-processing systems for operational, accounting and statistical purposes, the construction of new rail lines into the more remote mining areas in Canada’s North, and the elimination of certain uneconomical lines and services.

The importance of road transportation in Canada is emphasized by the fact that there are about 518,000 miles of roads and streets, the vast majority of which are surfaced; there are over 9.7 million motor-vehicles registered in Canada, and the average mileage driven by Canadian motorists annually exceeds 9,000. The automobile accounts for approximately 88 per cent of all passenger-miles travelled each year.

Freight and passenger services on Canadian roads and highways have expanded considerably in recent years, expansion of the trucking industry from rural and local services to transcontinental services and north and south owing to the rapid growth in urban population and the across the Canada United States border.

More than 2 million trucks and road tractors operate on Canadian roads; and about 60 million passengers use the numerous interurban and rural bus services annually.

Canada has many new roads and expressways, but the most important nationally is the 4,860-mile Trans-Canada Highway, completed in 1962, which makes it possible to drive from St. John’s in the east to Victoria in the west.

Water transportation, the earliest form of conveyance in Canada, still commands a most important position in a nation possessing three sea-coasts and thousands of navigable miles of rivers and lakes.

Canada possesses 25 large multi-purpose ports, 300 smaller ports, and several hundred wharves on the east coast, the Great Lakes, the west coast, in the Arctic, and on interior lakes and rivers. The St. Lawrence Seaway, a 2,280-mile water-route from the Atlantic to the heart of the continent has been operating since 1959, and approximately 75 million tons of iron, ore, coal, wheat and other commodities are transported every season through its series of 17 locks, with a total elevation from east to west above sea-level of 602 feet.

The National Harbours Board administers 12 of Canada’s major ports. All Canadian waterways, including canals, lakes and rivers, are open on equal terms to ships of all countries, except for those taking part in the coastal trade.

Of growing importance among Canada’s transportation systems are its modern airlines. Beginning in a small way in the 1920s with exploration flights to the northern bushlands and airmail flights on short runs, Canada’s civil aviation industry today occupies an important position in the world of transportation.

Fast, powerful jet – liners of the two major lines – Air Canada, owned and operated as a Crown company, and CP Air, a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific railway company – now carry passengers across the continent in from seven to eight hours. Some 15,000 registered civil aircraft operate in and out of approximately 1,600 airports, seaplane bases, “heliports” and military airfields. Canadian air-carriers transport some 17.5 million passengers and carry 479,156 thousand ton – miles of freight annually .

In addition to domestic lines and services, including many serving important northern routes, Canada’s inter national airports serve as landing and departure bases for scores of foreign-operated lines. Montreal is the head quarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association – the world’s two most important aviation bodies.

Newly added to the field of large-scale transportation in Canada are about 80,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines of varying diameter, snaking out from the western plains in all directions to feed crude oil to refineries as much as 2,000 miles from the source and carrying natural gas to industries and private homes across the continent .

The oil and gas pipelines were constructed mainly from 1950 on and carry their cargoes over the Rocky Mountains to the west coast, south into the United States and east to the industrial centres along the shores of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Roughly 2.0 million barrels of crude oil are moved each day by pipeline and an average of 6.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas are carried in the same way each day to provide energy for gas-utilities industries, which, in turn, distribute it to more than 2.1 million consumers, from New Brunswick to British Columbia, with a few export deliveries.


Source

The physical version of this product is part of the Federal identity archive.