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Western Canada

From Academic Kids

Western Canada is a region of Canada which normally refers to three or four Canadian provinces:

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Definitions

Many in the most Western Provinces (British Columbia and Alberta) do not consider Manitoba part of Western Canada because Manitoba is, geographically speaking, located in the centre of Canada. Therefore, another possible division is to put Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia in Western Canada and Manitoba in Central Canada. Manitobans, however, consider themselves to be Western Canadians, and the Province's economy and history mirror its Western neighbours far more than Ontario and Quebec, which together are referred to as "Central Canada". Coastal British Columbia is sometimes separated and considered to be Pacific Canada due its distinct climate and to the strong difference in culture, which is more in line with the coastal regions of the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon and northern California, including a more liberal political alignment that features strong environmental awareness. The combined population of Western Canada as of 2005 is nearly 10 million, including approx. 4.3 million in British Columbia, 3.3 million in Alberta, just under 1.0 million in Saskatchewan and 1.2 million in Manitoba. This represents about 30% of the entire Canadian population.

Geography

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 and Vancouver Island enjoy a moderate climate due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean with temperatures similar to 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 "chinooks" 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 (and frequently does!) snow in August. Saskatchewan and Manitoba experience extremes in weather, although Manitoba suffers the brunt of both extremes more so than Saskatchewan. Winters in both provinces can be classified as harsh with arctic winds and -40C temperatures possible. Winter maximums in both provinces average between -10C and -15C. The extreme nature of the Manitoba climate has resulted in the capital city Winnipeg being nicknamed "Winterpeg". In contrast summers can be extremely hot with temperatures sometimes exceeding 35C.

Politics and demographics

In Canadian politics, the term 'The West' is often used as shorthand for the supposedly Conservative leanings of Western Canadians, as contrasted with the supposed liberalism of Central Canada. The exception is in coastal British Columbia, and the City of Winnipeg, in Manitoba, which are generally far more liberal. The social democratic New Democratic Party had its origins on the Canadian Prairies and enjoys considerable support in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well as British Columbia, although in recent years this party has made somewhat of a shift to the right, particularly in the case of Saskatchewan. As of May 2005 the British Columbia Liberal Party (much to the right of the federal Liberal Party, more akin to the Conservatives) formed the provincial government in British Columbia, the Conservatives in Alberta, and the New Democratic Party in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Western Provinces are represented in the Canadian Parliament at Ottawa by 92 MP's in the House of Commons (BC - 36, Alberta - 28, Saskatchewan & Manitoba - 14 each) and 24 Senators (6 from each province). Of the 92 MPs in the Commons: 68 are Conservatives, 13 Liberals, 9 New Democratic Party, and there are 2 Independent Members.

Climatic and economic conditions have contributed to a net out migration from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, to Alberta and British Columbia which have stronger economies. In fact, the current population of Saskatchewan is only slightly larger than it was in 1931. British Columbia is often referred to as "Beautiful British Columbia", "God's Country" and "Lotus Land"; Alberta as "Wild Rose Country" or "The Land of Opportunity"; Saskatchewan as "The Land of Living Skies"; and Manitoba as "Friendly Manitoba" or "Land of 100,000 Lakes".

See also

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