Western Canada

Western Canada

Western Canada, commonly referred to as the West, is a region of Canada normally including all parts of Canada west of the province of Ontario. From west to east, this comprises four provinces:

* British Columbia
* Alberta
* Saskatchewan
* Manitoba

The latter three are collectively the "Prairie provinces", or simply "the Prairies", though the term is increasingly used for Manitoba and Saskatchewan only.

In some contexts, the term Western Canada may also include the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, although these are now more commonly grouped as the distinct region of Northern Canada.

The source of this division of regions is the division of seats in the Canadian Senate, as set out in the Canadian Constitution.


The combined population of Western Canada as of 2005 is nearly 10 million, including approximately 4.1 million in British Columbia, 3.3 million in Alberta, 1.0 million in Saskatchewan and 1.1 million in Manitoba. This represents about 30% of the entire Canadian population. [Statistics Canada, April 1, 2005 estimates]

Major population centres

Census Metropolitan Areas, 2005 population estimates: [ [http://www40.statcan.ca/cgi-bin/getcans/sorth.cgi?lan=eng&dtype=fina&filename=demo05a.htm&sortact=2&sortf=6 Statistics Canada - Population of census metropolitan areas (2001 Census boundaries)] ]

*Vancouver: 2,285,900
*Calgary: 1,162,100
*Edmonton: 1,081,300
*Winnipeg: 719,200
*Victoria: 337,800
*Saskatoon: 235,800
*Regina: 199,000
*Kelowna: 165,221
*Abbotsford: 162,800


Western British Columbia adjoins the Pacific Ocean, but both Alberta and Saskatchewan are landlocked. Manitoba is almost landlocked but for a small coastal area of Hudson Bay on the north east border, where the port of Churchill is located.

The coast of British Columbia enjoys a moderate oceanic climate because of the influence of the Pacific Ocean, with temperatures similar to those of the British Isles. Winters are typically wet and summers relatively dry. These areas enjoy the mildest winter weather in all of Canada, as temperatures rarely fall much below the freezing mark. The Interior of the province is drier and has colder winters and substantially hotter summers.

Alberta borders the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the southern portion benefits from frequent moderate climatic conditions known as "Chinook winds" where warm winds raise the winter temperature sufficiently to allow a full range of winter sports and the occasional game of golf. Alberta's weather is exceptionally changeable, and short-sleeve weather can occur in January and February, or conversely it can (albeit rarely) snow in July and August.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a continental climate and experience extremes in weather. Winters in both provinces can be classified as harsh with Arctic winds and −40 °C temperatures possible. Winter temperatures in both provinces average between −10 °C and −15 °C. In contrast summers can be hot with temperatures sometimes exceeding 35 °C, although it rarely occurs. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada was 45 °C, observed in 1943 at the weather stations of Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan and neighbouring Cedoux.


In Canadian politics, the term "the West" is used as shorthand for the Conservative leanings of Western Canadians, as contrasted with the greater likelihood for candidates from either the Liberal Party of Canada or the New Democratic Party (NDP) to be elected in Central Canada. Exceptions exist, particularly in British Columbia, as well as in the prairie cities of Winnipeg and Regina, where the Liberal Party currently hold seats, as well as in other major urban centres such as Edmonton where Liberal and NDP candidates have been elected in recent history. The social democratic NDP had its origins on the Canadian Prairies and enjoys support in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.

Regarding provincial politics, as of March 2008, the British Columbia Liberal Party formed the provincial government in British Columbia, the Progressive Conservatives held a large majority in the Alberta legislature, the Saskatchewan Party, a small-c conservative party, holds power in Saskatchewan and the NDP forms the government in Manitoba.

The western provinces are represented in the Parliament of Canada by 92 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons (British Columbia 36, Alberta 28, Saskatchewan and Manitoba 14 each) and 24 senators (6 from each province). Of the 92 western MPs in the Commons, 66 are Conservatives, 13 are Liberals, and 13 are New Democrats. David Emerson, the current Minister of International Trade in the federal cabinet, was elected as a Liberal in his BC riding but crossed over to the Conservative Party shortly after the election.

The West has been the most vocal in calls for reform of the Senate, in which Ontario, Quebec, and particularly Atlantic Canada are seen by westerners as being over-represented. The population of Ontario alone (12.5 million) exceeds that of all the Western provinces combined. The total population of Atlantic Canada, however, is 2.3 million, and this region is represented by 30 senators. Thus, Ontario is under-represented, Quebec is in the norm and the Atlantic provinces are over-represented. Westerners have advocated the so-called Triple-E Senate, which stands for "equal, elected, effective." They feel if all 10 provinces were allotted an equal number of senators, if those senators were elected instead of appointed, and if the Senate were a body that had more direct political power (for example via an arrangement more similar to the structure of the Australian Senate or the United States Senate rather than the UK model), then their region would have more of its concerns addressed at the federal level. Other westerners find this approach simplistic and either advocate keeping the status quo or may support other models for senate reform. The combination of all of these issues has led to the concept known as Western alienation, as well as calls for Western Canada independence by various fringe groups.

Climatic and economic conditions contributed to a net emigration from Manitoba and Saskatchewan to Alberta and British Columbia, which have stronger economies. The population of Saskatchewan is only slightly larger than it was in 1931. This trend of net emigration in Saskatchewan is reversing because of a lower cost of living than its western neighbours, strong job growth and a vibrant economy.

ee also

*List of regions of Canada
*Secessionist movements of Canada - Includes several movements in Western Canada
*History of the west coast of North America


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