In 5 of Canada’s 10 provinces (Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador), the relationship of power is marked by a division between Liberals and Conservatives. In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, a major feature of the partisan dynamics consists in the longstanding support of a major fraction of the electorate for its province’s New Democratic Party (NDP). In Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, moreover, the popularity of the provincial NDP goes hand in hand with the relative weakness of the provincial Liberal Party.
Furthermore, it is worth emphasizing the existence in all provinces of a strong feeling of membership in, and identification with, the provincial political space – which translates into a highlighting of this space in the political discourse of all provincial political discourses, regardless of whether or not the province’s name figures in their appellation, as is the case in Quebec (Parti Québécois) or Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Party). In addition, while a number of provincial Liberal and Conservative parties – notably in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario – do not tout themselves as being regionalist have, nevertheless, considerably participated in the phenomenon known as “province-building,” which consists in strengthening the political and administrative capacities of their respective provinces.
The number of provincial legislative assembly members since 1980
Quebec is the province whose legislature has the highest number of assembly members. The expansion of the legislative body stems from a desire to more fully represent the regions of Quebec, a function filled primarily by the former Legislative Council until 1968. Elsewhere in Canada, it is increases in population that have driven growth in the number of assembly members, particularly in British Columbia. In contrast, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Ontario reduced the size of their legislatures during the 1990s, primarily for reasons of ideology and budget cuts. In Ontario, the elimination of more than a quarter of seats at the Legislative Assembly in 1999 is the outcome of the implementation of Conservative Premier Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution,” a program designed to downsize the provincial government. Saskatchewan also shrank its Legislative Assembly, in 2003. Only Nova Scotia and Manitoba have kept their legislatures at their current size since 1980.