… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


R. Cole Harris, writing in the Canadian Encyclopedia (reference below), defines regionalism as “the distinctive local character of a geographic area, or to a people’s perception of and identification with such places.”

Cole writes:

“There was no continuous, expansive Canadian experience with the land. One patch would fill up, then people would emigrate to a new area. Different patches were settled at different times by people of different backgrounds who depended on different technologies and economies. The country’s underlying population structure was disjointed and discontinuous.

“The Canadian economy also fuelled regionalism. The decision to create a Canadian market was implicit in Confederation and explicit in the National Policy that followed it. Protected by tariffs against US products, manufacturing flourished in the St Lawrence-Great Lakes lowland (southern Ontario and southern Québec), where most of the Canadian market was located and from where there was good access to the hinterlands in the east and west.

“The rest of the country would consume the products made in the core, and would supply it with raw materials in return. Canadian settlements achieved a considerable economic integration. Most secondary industry and financial institutions were concentrated in Montréal or around the western end of Lake Ontario. Resource-based primary industries were scattered across the land, and core and periphery were linked by growing commercial and financial networks.

“Economically, such integration encouraged sharp regional specialization, reflected, for example, in the Prairie wheat economy. Emotionally, it laid the basis for strikingly different regional perceptions of Canada. Those at the core tended to feel expansive about the country on which their economy relied and over which their institutions exerted much influence. French Canadians, who worked in the factories but did not own them, had little entrepreneurial enthusiasm for a transcontinental country and a good deal of cultural suspicion of it. But for most English speakers in the core, a British Canada that stretched from sea to sea would reinforce their traditions as it expanded their markets.

“On the other hand, those on the peripheries were suspicious of the core. Many saw that their local circumstances were controlled from the core, and felt they were subsidizing central Canada and absorbing the cost of Confederation. What was seen as a National Policy in central Canada, was interpreted by the Maritimes as Upper Canadian imperialism, and in the West as economic manipulation. From a Prairie or Maritime vantage point, the “Big Interests” and “Special Privileges” lived in central Canada.”

Michael Portengen (reference below, p. 4) has written that the “impact of regionalism on Canadian politics is difficult to exaggerate … Canadian politics is very much regional politics.”

Portengen examines Western alienation and cites Mildred Schwartz (1974, 5) in defining a region as “adjacent areas, so that the entire region is distinguishable in character from others in society” and Almond and Verba (1963, 13) in defining political culture as “specifically political orientations – attitudes toward the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the role of self in the system…. A set of orientations toward a special set of social objects and purposes.” He concludes (p. 6) that “numerous studies have pointed to a series of factors that are alleged to draw the Western provinces together and set them apart from the rest of Canada.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Institutional Dynamics within Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


R. Cole Harris (2006, updated 2015), The Canadian Encyclopedia, Regionalism, at, accessed 26 August 2016.

Michael Bernard Portengen, (2002), Regional alienations: understanding political culture, regionalism and discontent in western Canada, MA Thesis, University of British Columbia, at, accessed 26 August 2016. Portengen cites Mildred Schwartz (1974), Politics and Territory, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press; and Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba (1963), The Civic Culture, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 26 August 2016.