Canadian Provinces vs. American States

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Difference between Canadian Provinces and American States

Although it may not seem like it, Canadian provinces and American states actually have quite a lot in common. In fact, the author of one research paper has stated that Canadian provinces and American states had become "virtually identical" by the 1940s. Let's see what these two have in common and how they differ.

Canadian Provinces
American States

Key Characteristics

Aerial photography of both areas taken from the early 20th century clearly shows that both have identical forms. In both areas, a 600-by-300 foot grid was the standard format used. Both also had similar urban densities, and even covered similar land areas. One key difference is that American states on the whole tended to have more churches–twice as many in fact.

System Of Government

The majority of Canadian provinces and American states are also best described as being “advanced liberal democracies”. While both are federal at the core, and in fact are comprised of some of the oldest federations in the world, their federalism’s character was and remains in dispute. This similarity in government is no doubt one of the main reasons for the two groups of states/provinces being each other’s most active trading partners. Many American states and Canadian provinces are in fact bound by the tenets of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As a result, there is a constant exchange of ideas and culture between both places.


A key difference between Canadian provinces and American states is that the former tend more toward the decentralized side than the latter. It is important to note however that the distinctions aren't as clear-cut as they may seem. Where the two places differ more significantly are in the policies regarding the death penalty and elections. In American states, elections are typically subject to federal regulations, while they are often centralized in Canada.

Federalism is also a lot more competitive and even adversarial in Canadian provinces as compared to the American states. Nevertheless, both tend to be characterized by complex interplays of cooperation and conflict, and tend to vary depending on specific issues and policies.

Overall Political Influence

Canadian provinces also tend to exert a more significant and apparent influence on the overall Canadian political sphere than American states do in U.S. politics. In addition, many Canadian provinces more actively resist what they deem as federal "intrusions", and they tend to protect their jurisdiction and autonomy more aggressively. Finally, Canadian provinces are generally more financially independent than U.S. states, and are less dependent on federal government funds.

Similarities and Differences

Canadian provinces

  • Tend to be more financially independent than American states
  • Guard their autonomy and authority more aggressively
  • Characterized as “advanced liberal democracies”
  • Many Canadian provinces are bound by tenets of the North American Free Trade Agreement

American states

  • Shares similar city formats as Canadian provinces
  • More dependent on federal funding than Canadian provinces
  • Elections are typically subject to federal regulations
  • Subject to regulations set by the North American Free Trade Agreement


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