Canadian FederalismRS Feb08

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Transcript of Canadian FederalismRS Feb08

  • 7/29/2019 Canadian FederalismRS Feb08


  • 7/29/2019 Canadian FederalismRS Feb08


    Some basic features

    One of worlds oldest, most successful federations

    A federal state underpinned by a federal societyand a federal economy

    One of the worlds most decentralized federations Federal-provincial relationship is one of equality

    and partnership, not hierarchy, paternalism

    A negotiated country

    A multinational country

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    First encounters:

    Aboriginals and Europeans

    French and English: accommodating difference fromthe beginning

    Confederation 1867

    Coming together the British North Americancolonies for economic and political security

    Coming apart accommodating French-Englishdifference

    Development Canada extended from sea to sea tosea, completed 1949

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    Contemporary Canada

    A vast country

    10 provinces; three territories.

    Large variations in population, size, economic

    base, incomes, population makeup A diverse country: key dimensions --language, region, Aboriginal peoples;multiculturalism

    A liberal state that blends market economyand social democracy. High rating on UNHuman development Index

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  • 7/29/2019 Canadian FederalismRS Feb08


  • 7/29/2019 Canadian FederalismRS Feb08



    Two Key Constitutional Documents

    Constitution Act, 1867: establishes a federal and parliamentarysystem. Canada remains a British country --- independence

    comes step by step, not from revolution, as US

    Constitution Act, 1982: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms;amendment formula, patriation (Constitution no longer a Britishlaw)

    Continuing constitutional debate

    Constitutional Principles: as stated by Supreme Court of Canada,1998: democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law; federalism;respect for minorities. Deeply ingrained in elite and popularculture

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    Peace, Order and Good Government a federalresponsibility suggests potential sweeping power forcenter, but

    Sections 91 and 92 of the 1867 Constitution set out federaland provincial powers in detail. POGG becomes anemergency power not a general power

    Watertight compartments only two areas of concurrentpowers

    Reality in 2008 many more areas of concurrency asgovernment has moved into new areas (environment,communications, etc.), or areas once of little concern togovernment become more important (education, healthcare)

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    Logic of Division of powers

    Ottawa: foreign affairs and defense; nation-building; the economic union (trade andcommerce, banking, etc.). Basic

    responsibility for social security old agepensions, unemployment. Criminal law

    Provinces: mainly social and cultural matters;education, welfare, health care; infra-

    structure; much economic regulation,promotion of economic development

    But no clear distinctions

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    Constitutional amendment

    Until 1982, Canada must ask UK to amendconstitution.

    1982 Constitution establishes a Canadianamending formula.

    Most changes require support of federalparliament plus legislatures of 7 provinceswith total 50 per cent of population; somerequire unanimity

    Makes amendment very difficult

    No popular ratification

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    Fiscal Federalism

    Provincial proportion of total government revenue andspending highest in world

    Trend since 1950s greater provincial role

    Federal government and provinces have virtually identicalpowers to impose taxes, borrow

    Intergovernmental transfers important, but smaller than inmost federations; fewer conditions than in most federations

    Equalization a central part of the Confederation bargain

    High degree of coordination in fiscal policy

    But current debate over vertical and horizontal fiscal

    imbalance Federal spending power, allows it to use its resources to

    influence provincial priorities. Controversial, but vital elementof flexibility

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    Role of Courts

    Unified judicial system, federally appointed.

    To 1949, Canadas highest court in UK

    UK courts radically re-interpreted Constitution

    to weaken federal powers, strengthen


    Since 1949, Supreme Court has sought to

    balance federal and provincial powers, andplayed crucial role in constitutional wars

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    Change over time

    Original division of powers gives wide powers forcenter to dominate provinces e.g. disallowance andreservation. Canada in 1867 only quasi-federal.

    Provinces resist federal power; courts re-interpret

    constitution to limit federal power 1930s depression, World War II, and postwarconstruction of the welfare state shift power back toOttawa

    From 1960s rise of Quebec nationalism, completion of

    welfare state, and growing importance of areas underprovincial jurisdiction all shift power again

    Today almost all constitutional jurisdictions are sharedand concurrent

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    Intergovernmental Relations

    Complex mix of cooperation and competition

    An informal process: institutions and procedures not set out inlaw or constitution

    Intergovernmental agreements set out shared priorities andclarify roles and responsibilities, but have no legal status

    Two elements: FPT (all three); PT (provinces and territoriescooperating)

    First Ministers, Ministers, and officials meetings and councils

    Important successes in coordinating policy, but worryingemphasis on turf protection, credit claiming, blame-shifting

    and buck-passing Worry about the democratic deficit decision-making behind

    closed doors, little public participation, lack of accountability

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    Other elements in political

    system affecting federalism An electoral system that rewards small, regional parties

    Result: a regionalized party system; today no truly nationalparty

    Power concentrated in PM and cabinet: minority regions mayfeel frozen out

    A Senate that fails to represent provinces These weaknesses at the center are a major reason for

    strength of provinces

    Separated federal and provincial political systems: littlemobility of officials and politicians; helps explain competitive

    relationship. An independent Supreme Court that often plays an important

    balancing role

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    The Quebec Debate

    Quebec as homeland of French-speaking


    Historically argued for provincial power

    and resisted federal power

    Modernizing revolution in 1960 leads to

    growth of Quebec nationalism masters in

    our own house.

    Three competing strategies

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    Quebec options/1

    National bilingualism: Strong Quebecrepresentation in government; minoritylanguage services across country; focus

    on individual rights, Canada-wide values Renewed federalism recognition of

    special role of Quebec; asymmetry;language laws to protect French language

    Independence, secession: usually linkedto association or partnership

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    Quebec sense of nationhood remains

    But drive for independence has weakened

    Post-national new world allows forgreater flexibility in relation between stateand nation

    Canadian achievement: a debate about

    very existence of the country conductedpeacefully and democratically on bothsides

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    Province-building elsewhere

    Other provinces emulate Quebec searchfor more power

    See selves as responsible for broad

    economic and social development,including a greater international role; resistfederal intrusions.

    Extensive provincial innovation, examples:Saskatchewan (public health care);Quebec (child care); B.C. (carbon tax)

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    Current Issues/1

    Quebec: remains central to almost all Canadiandebate; lower on the agenda today

    Oil and gas: Concentrated in Alberta

    Provinces own natural resources, gain greatestbenefits from royalties, employment, etc. Ottawahas limited powers corporate taxation, exports.

    Result: rapid growth of Alberta revenues,

    increases disparities; strains equalization system;threatens manufacturing because of rise of dollar

    Earlier federal intervention (1970s) createspolitical crisis. Caution today.

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    Current issues/2

    Aboriginal peoples search for justice

    Is federalism a template for them: self-government for First Nations?

    Challenges of size, capacities

    Multiculturalism: all levels haveresponsibility to integrate new Canadians,

    but main solutions lie outside fed