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Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Federalism

Political Science
Course Code
Victoria Wohl

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What is Federalism?
- The constitutional authority to make laws and to tax is divided between a national
government and some number of regional governments
- Citizens in a federal state are members of two political communities
1. National
2. Coinciding with the boundaries of the province, state, canton
- Federalism Æ legal term/ existence based on constitution
The Origins, Maintenance, and Demise of Federal States
- Circumstances that lead to the adoption of a federal political system?
1. Consensus of Regions
between the divergent interest groups which history has thrown
2. Sustained by a sense of political nationality
The existence of a national government and the idea of national
citizenship can be centralizing factors that offset the decentralizing
pull of regional interests
Sense of political community that transcends regional, ethnic, and
linguistic identifications.
The Origins of Canadian Federalism
- Most Anglophone Fathers of Confederation favored a unitary system, however they
were opposed by two groups
1. French- Canadian representatives of Canada East- Quebec
2. Maritime politicians
- Agreement the founders reached gave what then were the most important legislative
powers and sources of public revenue to the federal government
o Ottawa was given authority over trade and commerce, shipping, fisheries,
inter-provincial transportation, currency and banking, the postal service, and
several other subjects related to managing the economy
o Responsibility for immigration and agriculture was divided between the
federal and provincial governments
the provinces in economic matters
- Sections 55,56 and 90 of CA, 1867 Æ give provincial lieutenant- governors,
appointees of Ottawa, the authority to reserve approval from any Act passed by a
provincial legislature for a period of up to one year.
- The argument most frequently made about CAN federalism Æ it represents a
compact between French and English Canada/ or a contract among provinces that
agreed to give up certain powers to a new national government of their creation.
The Federal Division of Powers
- Both levels of government exercise wide-ranging legislative and taxation powers
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- Ability to do so rests on responsibilities assigned to them by the Constitution
- Ex) electronic communications, air transportation, and environmental protection Æ
(not explicitly) assigned to Ottawa or the provinces
- Heart of federal division powers found in sec 91 and 92 of CA, 1867.
- Some constitutional powers listed could reasonably have been placed under more
than one policy heading
o Ex) authority to tax Æ has been used to promote economic growth (to
redistribute income between groups, and to subsidize all sorts of special
o Ex) unemployment insurance Æ both an economic policy (manpower
retraining)/ social policy (effect of redistributing income to less affluent
regions of the country)
o Ex) immigration policy Æ needs of CAN economy/ cultural policy through
citizenship services
- Governments have also found the authority to legislate through powers that are
implied, rather than stated in the constitution.
The Courts and Federalism
Peace, Order, and Good Government
- Emergency power that can provide the constitutional basis for federal actions in
special circumstance
Trade and Commerce
- Court decisions have construed the trade and commerce power to be much narrower,
limited largely to inter provincial and international trade
Evolving Federalism
- Legal disputes over division of powers are signs of underlying tensions that are at the
root of intergovernmental conflict
- These tensions include:
o The status of Quebec and the power of Quebec state
o Relations between the more heavily industrialized and populous centre of the
country and the outlying western and eastern regions
o The political and administrative needs of governments
- In order to understand what Quebec wants from Canada it is also necessary to
consider what the rest of Canada expects from, and is willing to concede to
o One is its predominantly French speaking character
commercial and financial industries
demands on Canadian federalism
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