Federalism I & II
• Evolution of Canadian federalism
• Executive federalism
• Spending power
• Asymmetrical vs symmetrical federalism
• Fiscal federalism
Distinction between a unitary and a federal state
• Unitary state: “A system of governing in which sovereign authority rests with the
central government; regional and local governments are subordinate.
o France, most of the Scandinavian countries
• Federal State: A system of governing in which sovereign authority is divided or
shared between the central government and regional governments, with each
deriving its authority from the constitution.
o Power isn’t absolute it divided. There are 3 characteristics: specific levels
are government are in charge of different things, there is a construction
that explains it, and there is a judicial system.
Social Component of Federalism
• Salient differences that are organized and expressed largely on the basis of
territory (linguistic, history, culture, economic)
o One of the key reason is because of territory management and protect
and control the community.
Normative component - Legitimacy
• Citizens are members of both the national community, embodied in the national
government, and of provincial communities reflected in their provincial
governments • Federalism is intended to provide a balance between unity and diversity
o There must be a balance between unity and diversity or just become a
• Ultimately need to be sustained by a sense of political nationality or community
o There must be recognition of a political nationality and what it meant to be
The Moreno Question
• Which of the statement describes how you regard yourself?
o Ontarian, not Canadian
o More Ontarian than Canadian
o Equally Canadian and Ontarian
o More Canadian than Ontarian
o Canadian, not Ontarian
This isn’t the same as Quebec and NFL (they have a strong provincial identity) while
Ontario has the least.
Federalism in Canada
• 10 provinces, three territories
• Division of powers in the Constitution Act, 1867
o Federal responsibilities
The economic union, military, citizenship, Aboriginal affairs
o Provincial responsibilities
Property and civil right, natural resources, education (only one with
no national education department), health
o Shared responsibilities
Immigration, agriculture, and pension. As time goes on there is a
residual clause (anything new goes to the federal government. Ie,
• A “neutral” umpire o Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (until 1949)
o Supreme Court of Canada
• Weakly institutionalized intergovernmental relations
o Limited intra-state federalism
o Ad hoc inter-state federalism
Canada: From Centralization to Decentralization
• “The British North America (BNA) Act of 1867 provided for a more centralized
form of federalism than the Commonwealth of Australia Constitutions Act passed
in 1901 and yet over time, despite the expectations of the founding fathers,
Canada has tended to move erratically towards a much more decentralist
operation of government, while Australia has shifted in the opposite direction.”
• Bruce Hodgins (1989)
MacDonald’s View of Federalism
• “I have always contended that if we could agree to have one government and
one parliament, legislating for the whole of these peoples, it would be the best,
the cheapest, the most vigorous, and the strongest system of government we
• Macdonald wanted to be a unitary state and didn’t want to be have provinces.
Colonial or Quasi-Federalism (1867 to 1891)
• Related to existence of disallowance and reservation powers, which were used
extensively until 1911
o Reservation power the leader can stop the bill from pasting. The LG and
send the bill to the GG and see if this bill is just. Between 1867-1896 75%
of bills that weren’t past were from the West (alienation)
• Federal government was the dominant political actor
o Key role in creating the economic union
• Able to raise money by any means
o The church and charities
Classical Federalism (1891-1940) • Decline in the use of the reservation/disallowance power
o It does seem right to use the disallowance clause
• Governments limit their intervention to their competencies
o Think of it as a water tight compartment, you stay here and you stay there.
Harper believes in this in the beginning
• Key role of the JCPC
o Generous interpretation of the powers of the provinces
o Restrict use of some powers of the federal government
I want to make a unemployment policy but the JCPC will stop you.
If you’re a nationalist you’ll hate them.
Cooperative Federalism (1940-1965)
• Importance of the Great Depression
• A new blueprint: the Rowell-Sirois Commission
o Royal commission on employment insurance. By make higher taxes then
use the money to make social programs.
• Constitutional Amendment over UI
o Now the responsibility of the federal government (Quebec was liberal)
• Growing recognition of the limits of the old classical model
o Sometime the financial resources do match the needs.
• Pressures from the NDP
o King was pressured by the NDP because he was afraid that the liberals
will become a 3rd party like the UK.
Cooperative Federalism and the Spending Power
• Right to spend in areas of provincial jurisdictions o Not defined in the constitution and never confirmed by the Supreme Court
o Implicit from the power of taxation
• Associated with shared cost programs
(the federal will send money the provincial will respect what the
o Social services and social assistance
o Post-secondary education
Canada is now a welfare state
• Opposed by Quebec
o Opting out option
This doesn’t the federal nature of the country.
Competitive Federalism (and Constitutional Federalism) (1965-1995)
• Province vs nation-building
o Fight for the loyalty of