Are 'province' and 'state' two terms for the same concept?
October 2, 2004 9:56 AM   Subscribe

What's the difference between a province and a state? (mo' insi')

I don't mean how is a Canadian province different from a US state, as i know there are many differences. What I'm wondering is: is there something about a 'province' that MAKES it a 'province' and not a state? Or are they just different names for the same concept?

To give another similar question, that should help clarify: Are Louisiana parishes just counties with a different name? Or is there something about the definition of 'county' that would not apply?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher to Law & Government (9 answers total)
The way it was explained to me when I was trying to write a cop show based in Canada is that a province is more like a (really big) county- part of, but not separate from- the federal whole, whereas individual states have their own, complete government and code of laws that may differ from the federal whole (while still being under the geis of federal regulations.)

If I commit a murder in Toronto, I will be tried by the Crown. If I commit a murder in Albany, I wil be tried by the State of New York. I have no doubt there are many, many other differences, but that's the way my Canadian advisor explained it to me.
posted by headspace at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2004

And the parish/county thing is covered here. Cliff's Notes: there's no difference between a county and a governmental parish now, but don't mistake the Church parishes for the governmental parishes.
posted by headspace at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2004

Provinces would imply territories governed by differing factions; in Canada's case, some areas are loyal to the soverignity of Great Britan, while Montreal and Quebec, of course, lean toward France. A county or municipitality could be considered a province, as it's an occupied territory ruled by jurisdiction.

Unlike a territory,a state is an area with its own government-run system. It is managed by its inhabitants, either for its own well-being, or as part of a larger republic. In the U.S., states work together as a country/nation, but in a way more resembling a co-op. A single state may argue certain jurisdictional priviledges, but only for its own region, and not to the benefit/compromise of other states. Additionally, that state's priviledges mustn't conflict with the higher ideal of the country/nation's collective ordinances.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2004

Now, there's no functional difference. Dalek's distinction is, I think, wrong.

Both terms are used for the lower-level entities in federal (and confederal) systems.

Which term gets used probably reflects the political history of the country, or its political aspirations, more than anything else. The US has states because, for a brief instant, the various colonies were each free and independent countries acting in concert. The current formal name of Mexico -- Estados Unidos Mexicanos -- probably reflects its aspirations as well as its regional heritage.

If you really really stretch it, a "state" might have more of an independent existence, or an independent right to exist, than a "province" would. That's mostly a useless formalism, though. Canada is one of the most prominent federative countries with "provinces," and I assure you its provinces have at least as much independent right to exist as US states do -- eg, Newfoundland had a long history before it joined the confederation in 1949.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 AM on October 2, 2004

Just throwing this in for fun -- technically there are only 46 states in the U.S., the rest are commonwealths. This makes no difference at all in how they work; it's just a thing.
posted by JanetLand at 1:24 PM on October 2, 2004

Provinces would imply territories governed by differing factions; in Canada's case, some areas are loyal to the soverignity of Great Britan, while Montreal and Quebec, of course, lean toward France

Um...Montreal is in Quebec, first of all (unless by "Quebec" you mean Quebec City, which is also in Quebec), and second, unless there's been a revolution since I was last there, as far as I know there is no difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada in terms of relations between Canada and Great Britain. Quebec might feel a closer affinity to France than Great Britain, but there's been no official change in its status since Britain took it from France in 1759. And Canada has been an independent constitutional monarchy since 1982. France has nothing to do with it.

ROU_Xenophobe is correct to my knowledge. The differences between municipal, provincial and federal governments in Canada are fairly broadly comparable to the differences between municipal, state and federal government in the US. And none of it has to do with Great Britain in any day-to-day real-world sense (or France, for that matter, unless you want to discuss the FLQ Crisis).
posted by biscotti at 4:26 PM on October 2, 2004

Different names, same concept. Canadian provinces don't have quite the same level of autonomy that US states do, but there are differences, notably in areas such as welfare, labour laws, etc. The territories work the same as the provinces in most respects.

Crown Counsel represent at provincial and federal levels. The Queen owns all.

Our provincial Lieutenant Governors are not the same as State Governors. They are Queen's reps, all they do is attend openings, open government sessions and...uh...tour places. Sometimes, hang out in fancy taxpayer-paid mansions.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:03 PM on October 2, 2004

Canadian provinces don't have quite the same level of autonomy that US states do

Usually that description goes the other way -- that Canada is confederal, with more power held at the provincial level than in the US.

It would be hard to know in any definitive way, though, since federalism works differently in both countries. The US tends to have brighter lines between federal and state things (except when it doesn't), while the Canadian national government seems to me to play a stronger, more frequent role in setting minimum standards for the provinces to comply with.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:35 PM on October 2, 2004

Interesting. My thanks to all who answered.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2004

« Older QB Injuries   |   Dealing with comment spammers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.