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POL316Y1 (31)

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Michael Stein

s. 1 Definitions, Historical and Current Themes in the Study of Canadian Federalism Introduction: Some Preliminary Questions 1. Definition of concepts (Watts, 3 ed., 2008)  “Federalism”  Powers assigned to a national government and regional government  The advocacy of multi-tiered government combining elements of shared-rule and regional self-rule.  It is not as descriptive but as normative.  It is based on the presumed value and validity of combining unity and diversity, i.e., of accommodating, preserving and promoting distinct identities within a larger political union.  The essence of federalism as a normative principle is the value of perpetuating both union and non-centralization at the same time.  “Federal political system”  A broad category of political systems in which, by contrast to the single central source of political and legal authority in unitary systems, there are two (or more) levels of government thus combining elements of shared-rule (collaborative partnership) through a common government and regional self-rule (constituent unit-autonomy) for the governments of the constituent units.  This broad genus encompasses a whole spectrum of more specific non-unitary forms, i.e., species ranging from “quasi- federations” and “federations” to “confederacies” and beyond.  “Federation”  A species in a large genus of federalism; the powers held by two levels of government are equi-balanced; in which neither the federal nor the constituent units of government are constitutionally subordinate to the other, i.e., each has sovereign powers derived from the constitution rather than from another level of government, each is empowered to deal directly with its citizens in the exercise of its legislative, executive, and taxing powers, and each is directly elected by its citizens.  Compound polities, combining strong constituent units and a strong general government, each possessing powers delegated to it by the people through a constitution, and each empowered to deal directly with the citizens in the exercise of its legislative, administrative and taxing powers, and each with major institutions directly elected by the citizens.  Currently there are some 25 countries in the world that meet or claim to meet the basic criteria of a functioning federation.  “Federal society”  Livingston (1956)  Meekison  A society constituted of territorially based communities that are clearly differentiated by language and ethnicity, other factors such as geography, economy, etc.  The essence of federalism lies not in the institutional or constitutional structure but in the society itself. 2. Reasons for Canada’s adoption and retention of a federal system: the pros and cons of a “unitary” versus a “federal” system for Canada  Pros  To promote economic trade within British North American regions at that time as well as the United States  Encompass vast geographical diversity of Canada  To defend against US invasion  Shared desire to form a larger union by the four provinces at the times  Federation was thought to guarantee the rights of ethnic minorities to be preserved.  Federal government would avoid concentration of power in the hands of national government; to preserve democracy in a parliamentary system  Cons  They felt they would be absorbed, and loose their separate identity  Vast majority of Quebec delegates rejected this notion, because it was perceived to concentrate too much economic and political power in the hands of a central national government; as Quebecois knew they were already a minority, they didn’t want to be put in such a position in the national government.  Language (English vs. French) and Religion (Protestants vs. Roman Catholics) 3. The major political dimensions and visions of Canadian federalism (Rocher and Smith in Rocher and Smith, 2 ed., 2003)  The compact theory: equality of the provinces  Refers to a relationship of equality between the two orders of government (federal and provincial)  Equality of the provinces both with the federal government and with each other  To promote provincial autonomy and to ensure all constitutional changes are ratified by them  Reflects a definition of the nature of Canadian political community as “shared”  Provinces must possess the same powers  To prevent Quebec from receiving special powers  Dualism and multiculturalism: cultural symmetry  Accommodate cultural and territorial differences  Dualism: French-speaking and English-speaking to Multiculturalism and Aboriginal nationalism  Quiet Revolution  Nationalizing vision: a strong central government  Nationalizing constitutional vision  Denies other sources of political identity, particularly those based on region, province, or Quebec or Aboriginal nationalism  Three different versions of nationalizing vision  Original view of the Fathers of Confederation  English-Canadian social democrats of 1930’s  Trudeau Liberal view during the 1970’s and 1980’s o Patriation and amendment of the constitution in the Constitution Act, 1982  Federal government as privileged level of government  Rights-based constitutional vision: individual and collective rights  Along with strong national government, individual rights of Canadians must be recognized; basic recognition of rights is common to all Canadians  Charter of Rights, 1982  Multi-level governance (MLG as a possible new political dimension and vision (Bakvis et al., 2009, Chapter 1, pp. 19-21)  It is in continuity with the definition of federalism.  European Union is a hybrid of federal system and con-federal
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