Provinces and territories
Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories. Western Canada consists of British Columbia and three Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba). Eastern Canada consists of Central Canada (Quebec and Ontario) and the Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador). Three territories (the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) comprise Northern Canada. Provinces have a large degree of autonomy from the federal government, territories somewhat less. Each has its own provincial or territorial symbols.
The provinces are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as health care, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so in practice. Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces.
All provinces have unicameral, elected legislatures headed by a Premier selected in the same way as the Prime Minister of Canada. Each province also has a Lieutenant-Governor representing the Queen, analogous to the Governor General of Canada, appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Canada, though with increasing levels of consultation with provincial governments in recent years.