Lecture 3: Federalism
• The system of government we have in Canada.
• It also exists in the U.S, Belgium and many others.
• It shapes how Canadian politics has developed and has influenced a lot of other
factors in our governmental systems.
• There is a central government and then regional governments. In Canada the
central government is the federal (or national). It is the one in Ottawa led by
• Our regional governments are in the different provinces run by our premieres.
• Federalism is the system of government that helps all these other governments
• Municipal governments are not apart of the official system.
What is federalism?
• Division of powers between central and regional governments
o Theoretically neither level of government is subordinate
o In practice, arrangements, are usually biased in either direction of central
government or regional government
• Symmetrical federalism
o All provinces are treated equally
• Asymmetrical federalism
o Different arrangements across provinces
A federal system that is symmetrical is one in which all the provinces are
treated equally and all the provinces have the same arrangements with the
A federal system that is asymmetrical, there would be different kinds of
arrangements with the federal governments and the provinces.
For the most part is Canada we have asymmetrical systems.
Health care is an example of symmetry but there could be argument of
asymmetry amongst provinces.
Immigration policies are examples of asymmetric politics. The province with
the most different arrangement with the federal government is Quebec. This is
in things such as language and customs.
• Confederation Settlement
o Part of British North American Act, 1867 (BNA act)
• The BNA act was renames the Constitution Act
• The Constitution outlines the division of powers between the central and
• This division of powers is a key component of Canadian federalism • Courts have had a role in interpreting the constitution
o It is not clear cut in the constitution and has not been the same over time
• Division of powers
• Enumerated powers
o 16 powers explicitly given to the province in sec 92
o E.g. hospitals, municipal institution
• Residual powers
o Powers not allocated to the provinces go to the central government in
o E.g. trade, commerce, defense
• Concurrent powers
o Powers dealt with both levels of government listed in Sec. 95
o Immigration and Agriculture
• What else is in the constitution?
• Division of powers
• Division of financial resources
o Federal government can levy any kind of tax
o Provinces can only levy direct tax
o A direct tax is like an income tax; it goes form you directly to the
o An indirect tax is like a sales tax. You buy something from Tim Horton’s
and pay tax to them and thereafter they distribute it to the government.
• Federal controls
o Reservation the left handed governor has the right to say that a law
passed by the provincial government should be looked at again by the
federal government, revised by them this is obsolete
o Disallowance takes the left handed governor out of the equation, the
federal government could reject legislation passed by the provincial
government—this is obsolete
o Declaration the power of the federal government to say a specific area or
initiative is for the general advantage of Canada, it is ours, in our
jurisdiction and we can use it – also no longer used
• Provincials representation in some intuitions notably the senate
• Cultural guarantees related to language
Federalism as contested concept
• Constitution spelled out a model of federalism
• Model has evolved
o Judicial decisions
• Power of central government has been eroded
• Move away from constitutional model of federalism
• Powers are often negotiated (De) centralization
o Increasing power of federal government relative to the province
o Decreasing power of federal government relative to the province
Which level of government is responsible for deterioration in healthcare over past
There is a regional variation of who people blame.
The Atlantic finds the federal government responsible.
Whereas other provinces find both the federal and provincial almost at part for
who is responsible.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of centralized model of federalism?
You have a mom and dad in charge to say which path we’re taking; there is a
There is less negotiating amongst which decisions and paths to take
It is a less messy approach of doing things
There is a national standard of doing things.
Also nation building occurs where were not little parts welded together, we’re
actually a unified country.
What are the advant