How Canadian Politics Differ from the USA

American citizens often ask how Canadian politics differ from their own. Here’s a brief overview of the main ways in which the political systems of Canada and the United States differ.

Checkout this video:


Though they are next-door neighbors, Canada and the United States have different systems of government. Both are federal states with a written constitution, but that is where the similarity ends. The United States has a presidential system of government while Canada has a parliamentary system.

The Monarch

In Canada, the Monarch is a symbol of the nation and of Canadian sovereignty. The role of the Monarch in Canada is mainly symbolic and ceremonial; he or she does not take part in day-to-day government.

The current Canadian Monarch is Elizabeth II, who has held the throne since 1952. As a Constitutional Monarchy, when the Queen is travelling within Canada she is represented by the Governor General. The Governor General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister and serves a five year term.

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister of Canada is the head of government, elected by the Canadian people. The Prime Minister is also the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament. The office exists to carry out the will of Parliament, and is thus responsible to Parliament. The current Prime Minister is Justin Trudeau.

In contrast, the President of the United States is both head of state and head of government, and is elected by the American people. The President is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has significant powers to enact change without Congressional approval. The current President is Donald Trump.


The Canadian Parliament is the bicameral legislature of Canada, vested with the power to enact laws covering all areas of Canadian federalism, including taxes, banking, defense, criminal law, foreign policy, and immigration. The Parliament is composed of three parts: the Monarch (represented by the Governor General), the Senate, and the House of Commons.

The Monarch is Canada’s head of state and is represented by the Governor General. The Senate is a house of review whose 105 members are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The House of Commons is elected every four years by Canadian citizens aged 18 and older; it has 338 members who represent geographic ridings across the country.

Since Canada uses a Westminster system similar to that in place in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition—currently led by Andrew Scheer—forms an important part of Parliament. In addition to passing legislation, Parliament is responsible for ratifying treaties laid before it and for providing parliamentary scrutiny of government activities.

Provincial and Territorial Governments

The three levels of government in Canada are federal, provincial, and municipal. In the United States, there are only federal and state governments.

The main difference between Canadian provinces and US states is that provinces have more power than states. The Constitution of Canada clearly outlines the division of powers between the two levels of government.

The province is responsible for matters such as education, health care, and welfare. The federal government is responsible for matters such as defense, criminal law, currency, banking, and interprovincial trade.

Municipal governments in Canada are similar to those in the United States. They are responsible for local matters such as garbage collection, policing, and fire protection.


In conclusion, there are several key ways in which Canadian politics differ from those of the United States. Perhaps the most notable difference is the fact that Canada has a parliamentary democracy, while the United States has a presidential democracy. This means that the Canadian Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people, but rather is appointed by the Governor General on behalf of the Queen. Additionally, Canada has a sovereign Head of State in the form of the Queen, whereas in the United States, the President serves as both Head of State and Head of Government. Another significant difference between Canadian and American politics is that Canada has a written Constitution, whereas in America, the Constitution is unwritten. Finally, Canada has a unicameral parliament, whereas America has a bicameral one.

Scroll to Top