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Chapter 4

PO263 Chapter 4: PO263 Textbook Chapter 4 Notes

Political Science
Course Code
Christopher Anderson

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4.1 What is Federalism
Unitary System: all sovereign authority of that nation-state resides in one governing body — the national
government. It may delegate some of its authority to lower levels of governments. But the national government
decides how much power it will delegate. The country has one sovereign government.
Modern federalism is recent, invented by founders of America in 1787. Canada, Australia, India, Germany are al
examples of federal government.
Federal government: authority is continuously divided between two levels of government. Neither level of
government can understood to be sovereign. Each receives authority from its nations constitution and thus
subordinate to it.
Constitution gives legal jurisdiction over nation concerns to national legislature. It gives legal jurisdiction over
regional concerns to provincial legislature. In some cases, they both share jurisdiction.
In a unitary system, power flows from the centre out. In a federal system, power is constitutionally divided.
Relationship between federal and provincial governments is not the same as between provincial and municipal
governments. Municipals fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. They are subordinate to them.
But provincial governments are not subordinate to the federal government. Federal and provincial governments
are equally subordinate to Canada’s Constitution.
Equal subordination is made clear under the CA: 1982 which contains a complex amending formula.
Federalism is a contract between two levels of government. Neither party can change terms of the contract on its
4.2 Why a Federal Union?
British North America consisted of 6 colonies: BC, New Brunswick Nova Scotia, PIE, Upper + Lower Canada.
Each had its own colonial government. System of government for the province of Canada failed and the
politicians were desperate to reform the system of government.
It seemed logical to unite the British Colonies within North America to one government.
First, new arrangement would break deadlock between French and English Canada. Second, the new government
could provide a coordinated plan of economic development: railways, canals, roads. Third, provide greater
security. Four, help relive burden of Britain of providing troops. Canada could finally stand on its own. Finally, it
would make Canadian expansion into the rest of the western part of North American easier. Ensure US would not
expand northward.
Those seeking a union system faced some challenges. Those in Quebec and maritime provinces would never have
agreed to a unitary system. They had long established governments and were not included to see their interested
submerged into as they become a regional minority.
Thus, from the very beginning, Canada was faced with two issues: the division is French and English and the
division of central and periphery.
The obvious solution was to create a federal system. However, Canadians were reluctant to start a federal union
1. Federalism was perceived to as failed in the US. Federalism was associated with war and slavery there.
Federalism created a divided system of government and that the weakness of washing to created the war.
2. It would create two levels of government and hence be more costly. They could not afford one level of
government, let alone two.
4.3 The Original Design of the Federal Union
Fathers of Confederation agreed that a federal union would be the best solution to their problems. They key was
the creation of a federal system in which the government would have a clear preponderance of power. ex:
In the constitution it outlines the division of powers between the two levels of government.
Section 91.2 grants the feral parliament exclusive jurisdiction over trade and Commerce. This was intended to
provide a constitutional basis for putting the general management of the economy in Ottawa’a hands.
Section 92.17 gives the federal government exclusive control over criminal law.
Anything not specifically reserved for the provinces is to be a part go general federal power to legislate for the
“peace, order and good government in Canada”
Provinces are to have power over “all matters strictly local or private nature of the province” this includes such
items as “hospitals, charities, local works, property and civil rights and municipal institutions.
Provinces power is limited to two modest sources: “direct taxation” and “shop, salon tavern and other licenses”
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