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What is the difference between Canada and the US government

What is the difference between Canada and the US government?

When you think about the governments of Canada and the United States, you probably imagine two similar systems. But in reality, there are some big differences between them.

One of the biggest differences between a Canadian and US government is their Constitution. In the United States, their governing document is a living Constitution composed of written laws. 

Meanwhile, Canada has an unwritten constitution that includes laws from common law, statutes and government regulations.

Both countries also have respective approaches to taxation, regulation, foreign policy, and social policies which we will discuss in detail below, so keep on reading. 

An Overview of US and Canadian Governments

An Overview of US and Canadian Governments

Both Canada and the US operate under forms of democracy, and are largely based on the same set of political ideologies. But when you start to look at the details, you’ll find that each government has its own unique aspects.

For instance, Canada’s government is formed by a parliamentary system, where citizens elect their representatives in local districts to serve in Parliament. 

In contrast, the United States operates under a federal system with Congress representing all states and citizens.

The Differences Between Canada and US Government
Head of StateCanada has a Governor General from Britain who carries out ceremonial roles on behalf of Britain’s Monarchy.The US has a President as its Head of State and Government 
Size & Scope of GovernmentCanada’s authority to regulate laws is limited and its access to resources is relatively small.The US government has more departments and agencies, greater authority to regulate laws, and  a greater access to resources
LegislationLegislation must pass through both Houses of Parliament.Legislation only needs to be passed by Congress.
Cabinet ResponsibilitiesThe laws are subject to judicial review by courts at both a federal and provincial level.Only certain federal court decisions can be reviewed in US courts.

It’s these types of differences that create distinct political cultures in each country—so if you’re looking for an overview on what separates the Canadian and US governments, this should help provide some clarity!

The Notable Differences Between the Governments of the US and Canada

Now that we have an overview of the United States and Canada’s government, let’s take a closer look at some of the significant differences between them.

1. Head of State of Canada vs. the USA

Head of State of Canada vs. the USA

In Canada, the Head of State is a figurehead, typically the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth. This means that while they do have symbolic power and authority, they typically don’t have any real say in how policy is formed or implemented.

In contrast, the President of the United States is both a figurehead and an executive. They are responsible for signing legislation into law as well as setting foreign policy. 

This means that they may have more direct control over how their government works than the Head of State in Canada does. Another key difference between Canada and the US is levels of government. 

Levels of Government in Canada and US
CanadaFederalThe House of Commons, which consists of 338 Members of Parliament (MPs) from each region and province. The Senate, which is made up of Senators chosen by the Head of State, and the Governor General, who represents the monarch, make up the federal parliament.
ProvincialThe 124 elected members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) make up this parliament. The provincial government is in charge of matters that have an impact on the entire province. 
This includes things like health care, agriculture, the environment, and transportation.
United StatesFederalThe executive branch of the government, which is responsible for enforcing laws and using its veto power, is headed by the president.
StateThis frequently consists of two parts, the Senate and the House of Representative, which pass laws. Also, each state has a judicial system with judges who determine the meaning of various laws.
LocalA mayor is the head of the executive branch at the municipal level and is in charge of enforcing the law.

This means that in addition to having a national president, each state has an individual governor who makes certain decisions about their jurisdiction only.

2. The Structure of the Governments

The Structure of the Governments

The United States is a federal republic, while Canada is a constitutional monarchy. This means that in the US, power lies with a central government, which serves as the governing body for the entire nation. 

In contrast, the Canadian government is decentralized, with power split between several branches of federal and provincial governments.

Government Structure of Canada and US
CanadaIn Canada, provinces have more power than their American counterparts do—they can levy taxes and pass laws to regulate local affairs within their jurisdiction. 
This decentralization gives citizens more voice on local issues while allowing those who live in different parts of Canada to have different experiences based on where they live—something that’s not possible in many other countries.
United StatesIn the US, the federal government holds both delegated and implied powers. 
The Constitution dictates that Congress has delegated powers or the “enumerated powers” as well as implied powers. Both these are granted through its authority to make laws in order to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for national defense. 
This means that Congress has broad authority over many aspects of life in America.

3. Taxes of Canada vs USA

Taxes of Canada vs USA

You might not know that taxes in Canada and the United States are different. Taxes are the government’s way of making money to pay for projects and services, like roads, health care, and libraries. 

In Canada, taxes can be paid at both the federal and provincial level — with each province responsible for their own tax system. Whereas in the United States it is done at a federal level only.

There are a few things you should know about the taxes in both countries:

Tax Landscape of Canada and US
CanadaTax rates range from 15% to 33%, depending on income.
The amount of money earned is tallied from January 1 to December 31 and taxes must be paid by April 30 of the following year.
Provincial tax rates vary from province to province, with some provinces having no provincial taxes.
Plus, there are other expenses deducted from income, such as RRSP contributions (Canada’s equivalent of a 401K).
United StatesTax rates range from 10% to 37%, depending on income.
The tax year is also January 1 to December 31, but taxes must be paid by April 15th.
Americans pay these taxes federally only, with slightly different rules state by state regarding deductions and acceptable expenses.
Social Security payments and Medicare also come out of employees’ wages in certain states such as Colorado, California and Texas.

4. Social Programs and Services of Canada vs. USA

Social Programs and Services of Canada vs. USA

When looking at the differences between the Canadian and American governments, it’s important to consider social programs and services that are available to citizens.

Social Programs and Services of Canada and US
CanadaIn Canada, citizens have access to a veritable smorgasbord of social programs and services. 
For instance, Canadians can access free healthcare through federal and provincial programs. This means that basic medical services are available through government-funded clinics for all citizens, regardless of age, employment status or income level. 
United StatesSocial programs in the United States vary widely from state to state and depend largely on employment status and income levels for eligibility. 
Medicare and Medicaid are government-funded health insurance options for certain categories of Americans such as seniors or those on low incomes.

In addition, Canadians have access to public education from kindergarten until their post-secondary years. With public education being increasingly expensive in the US, this is a luxury that many Canadians take for granted.

Meanwhile, education in the US is also largely dependent on location. Most US states offer public education up until high school level but post-secondary tuition fees can be prohibitively expensive without a suitable scholarship or stipend.

5. Healthcare System of Canada vs. USA

Healthcare System of Canada vs. USA

The difference between the Canadian and US healthcare systems is significant, too. The US system encourages private health insurance, whereas in Canada the federal government funds healthcare for all citizens and permanent residents.

In Canada, provincial governments are responsible for providing free or subsidized healthcare to their residents. This means that you can expect to pay lower fees for doctor visits and medical services. 

Meanwhile, in the US, only certain people qualify for free or subsidized healthcare such as those under the age of 18 while most other people must sign up for private health insurance plans or pay out of pocket whenever they need medical care.

Healthcare System of Canada and US
CanadaIn Canada, all citizens and permanent residents benefit from a comprehensive health insurance program that covers routine doctor checkups, hospital stays, diagnostic testing, prescribed medications and more. 
This means that Canadians are able to access quality medical care without any financial burden. 
United StatesIn the US there is no universal healthcare system offering coverage to all citizens. I
Instead, individuals and families must purchase their own private health insurance plans through their employers or on their own through a health insurer in order to receive coverage for routine medical services. 

Our Final Thoughts: Why do these differences matter?

Our Final Thoughts Why do these differences matter

Canada is a former British colony that achieved independence through a peaceful negotiation process, while the US was born out of revolution and bloodshed. 

So, right from the beginning, they had different foundational ideas when it came to forming their respective governments. Nowadays, there are still some key differences between Canada and the US that can be attributed to historical and cultural reasons. 

  • For example, Canada has a higher tax rate than the US, which reflects its commitment to providing social services like universal healthcare access for citizens. 
  • On the other hand, the US has more autonomy when it comes to making laws and regulations due to its federal system of government.

These differences matter for several reasons. Firstly, they help ensure that citizens of both countries have access to different types of policies and resources that address their unique needs and concerns. 

Finally, they demonstrate how each country’s approach towards democracy is shaped by its own unique history and cultural values.

FAQs about the Differences between Canada and the US Government

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