Is Canadian Politics Really As Divisive As US Politics?

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Like Americans, Canadians Are Divided on Hot Button Issues

In the United States, Americans are currently choosing which candidate they want to watch bring about the destruction of the country. Politics are a hot issue, they galvanize people, they ruin Thanksgiving dinners, but they are important and completely influence the direction of a country.

Like Americans, Canadians are incredibly influenced by politics and we take them very seriously. While we may have elected a handsome new Prime Minister, politics are an important part of Canadian society and Justin Trudeau himself is being held to the fire and graded based on his ability to satisfy the country’s political ambitions.

Canadians and Americans aren’t very different. Our countries may have different laws, but culturally, we are similar, and many of our political ambitions are the same. Listed below are several important issues between the two countries.

Popular Issues in the US:

ISIS / terrorism

Gun control


LGBT rights


The Religious divide


The War on drugs / marijuana legalization

The Environment

The Military

Popular Issues in Canada

ISIS / terrorism


Marijuana legalization

The Environment


Social welfare / social programs

The Military

Both of these lists could extend forever to include smaller issues. However, a quick glance shows that both countries tend to focus on the same issues, especially when it comes to larger topics like ISIS, immigration, and the environment.

The Basics of Canadian Politics

Americans may perceive Canadian politics to be an issue of who apologizes to whom, but it is much broader than that. While the American political system has two major political parties, Canada has three: The Conservatives, the Liberals, and the New Democratic Party (NDP). A fourth party called the Green Party, likes to believe it is relevant, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes a legitimate political player.

Canada as a whole tends to be a left leaning country. Our version of the Republicans, the Conservative Party, would be best described as a centrist party, while the Liberal Party is slightly left leaning and the NDP is extremely left leaning.

Like in the United States, our political associations force us to take our desired parties to the political extreme. For example, the NDP is a liberal political party located to the left of the Liberal Party. Due to this, it is politically predictable that right-wing Canadians will support the Conservative Party and take it to the extreme right, while left-wing Canadians will support the NDP and take it to the extreme left of the Canadian political spectrum.

This works to the advantage of the Liberal Party, as it allows them to be viewed as a centrist-left party simply because they exist between the other two political entities, even if they tend to favor more progressive reform.

Key Divisive Issues in Canada:

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With all these parties dominating the Canadian political landscape, where do Canadians stand on the major issues? The answer to this question is predictable and comparable to what you would expect in the United States.


ISIS is an acronym which drives fear and anger into almost anyone from North America. It doesn’t matter where you stand politically, it is hard to justify the brutality of this terrorist group. When it comes to addressing ISIS politically, there are two camps in Canada. The first group, the conservatives, want ISIS wiped off the map through armed conflict and partnerships with the United States. The second group, the liberals, want to pursue an isolationist policy that keeps Canada out of the Middle East in order to allow the country to focus on its problems at home.

Under Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership, Canada has lessened its involvement in Syria and Iraq against ISIS, and will no longer conduct airstrikes on ISIS-occupied areas. In addition, Canada has also welcomed over 27,000 Syrian refugees, allowing them to flee an active war zone.

In essence, Trudeau’s policy follows an important realization that reckless policy in the Middle East comes with a price. Any western country that wants to bomb key targets in Iraq and Syria should be willing to take on the various populations they displace in the process. Taking in 27,000 Syrian refugees will not solve the country’s overall problems, but it is a small step to taking responsibility for dangerous foreign policy.

These decisions, however, have not been widely accepted by a majority of Canadians as the right thing to do. According to a Forum Research poll, over 50% of Canadian respondents disagree with Trudeau’s plan to stop the bombing mission. More than 50% of respondents also disapproved of resettling Syrian refugees, compared to just over 40%, which approved of the action. A majority of respondents also agree that combating ISIS is effective and over 60% believe the Syrian refugees present a security risk to the safety of Canadians. It is not that Canadians do not feel for the Syrians or do not want to help them, but rather that they still fear the Middle East and its inhabitants after years and years of propaganda.

One of the main issues Canadians have with the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Canada has to do with the short screening times of the refugees being settled. Other Canadians are also angry at the fact that the government is actively taking in foreign refugees rather than aiding their own people. In this situation, there is no way to win and the government is the boogeyman regardless of what policy they carry out.


Immigration is another political issue Canadians are divided on. Again, like Canada’s mission fighting ISIS, it is the particulars of the issue, rather than the issue itself, which Canadians disagree upon. In the 2015 Federal Election which brought Prime Minister Trudeau to power, the Conservatives proposed such measures as working with individual geographic regions to determine mutually-agreeable refugee and immigrant resettlement policy (this is comparable to America’s states rights), the use of temporary foreign workers to fill “skills shortages” and drive the economy, and better screen immigration candidates before they enter the country.

While the NDP wanted to work with the local regions and provinces, their main priority was to “promote the reunification of families.” Temporary workers would have an easier path to citizenship, as well as be able to bring their families over. Foreign credential and certifications would also be recognized, thereby allowing workers to join the workforce more easily, instead of following a Conservative model of placing workers where they are needed to help drive the local and national economy.

The Liberal Party proposed measures that would increase the transparency of the immigration system by allowing the government to track temporary foreign workers and audit their workplaces, as well as make it easier for refugees to emigrate to Canada, especially from Iraq and Syria.

All three plans were valid solutions to the immigration issue, but they presented clear ideological differences. In simple terms, the Conservatives valued economic prosperity over happiness, the NDP wanted happy families, and the Liberals wanted a balance between the two.

Economy vs. Environment

Another politicized issue in Canada, as it is in the United States as well, is the value of the economy versus the environment. This issue is actually comprised of many issues like gas emissions, the use of renewable energy, and the oil sands, among more. As a side note, ICANParty is a great, user-friendly website where you can explore these issues in more depth if you wish.

The oil sands is a well-known issue that involves the entire spectrum of Canadian politics. The Conservatives feel the economy is more important and therefore promote measures such as increased foreign investment into the oil sands, as well as shying away from imposing gas emissions legislation and regulation.

The NDP wants the provinces to refine the oil rather than export it, and believe that restrictive legislation on emissions and environmental issues can, in fact, positively benefit the Canadian economy. They do not, however, believe that foreign investment oversight is thorough enough and want more scrutiny.

The Liberals support the oil sands but also want increased emissions legislation and regulation. While they, like the Conservatives, support foreign investment into the oil sands, they value the environment more than the economy, wanting to “adopt a national climate policy…to limit greenhouse gas emissions including the oil sands.”

In the End, We are Not So Different

Sound familiar to the United States? That’s because we fight over the same issues and we are split on the same ideological lines as Americans. Political divide is not new in Canada. As much as the rest of the world perceives Canadians to be peaceful quiet people that only fight on the hockey rink, every nation has its political spectrum and no two citizens think alike on all issues.

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