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Chapter 4

PO263 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Fiscal Federalism, Asymmetric Federalism, Main Source

Political Science
Course Code
Christopher Anderson

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Chapter 4: Federalism
4.1 What is Federalism?
● Unitary system of gov’n is a system in which all sovereign authority of that nation-state
resides in 1 governing body-the national gov’n
May be other gov’ns besides the national one, but these are servants of the
national gov’n and it decides how much power it will delegate and can take away
that power
UK, France, Ireland, Sweden, Japan
In federal systems of gov’n, authority is constitutionally divided between 2 levels of
gov’n-neither level has sovereign authority
Each gov’n receives its authority from the constitution
Constitution gives legal jurisdiction over matters of national concern to the
national legislature and legal jurisdiction over matters of local or regional
concern to the provincial/state legislatures
Modern federalism invents by American founders when they designed the US
Municipal gov’ns fall within the jurisdiction of the provincial gov’ns
The federal and provincial gov’ns are equally subordinate to the Constitution (provincial
gov'n isn’t subordinate to the federal gov’n)
CA 1982 amending formula based on principle that the provinces and federal gov’n must
agree on changes to the federal division of powers-neither party can change the terms
on its own.
4.2 Why a Federal Union?
1860s; each of our 6 colonies has its own colonial gov’n and legislature-didn’t work ell
Idea to unite the British colonies within N. America under 1 gov’n
Appealed to 3 of the colonies, which went on to make up Canada’s 1st 4
Broke deadlock between the French and English in the largest colony bc it gave
power to the new union in favor of English colonists
New gov’n of the Dominion of Canada could provide a plan of economic
development of railways/canals/roads
Provide greater security for small colonies and uncolonized ares
Relieve burden on Britain of providing troops/personnel to administer the colonies
Facilitate Canadian expansion into the western part of N. America
English-speaking colonies wanted a legislative union (unitary system), but the French
opposed bc it would make them a minority
Had to have their own provincial gov’n, which would have jurisdiction over those
matters relating to their preservation as a ppl
Canadians were reluctant to create a federal union bc it was perceived as having failed
in the US and argued that federalism created a divided system of gov’n
Belief that weakness of the US national gov’n was a main cause of the war
Creating 2 levels of gov’n would be more costly than creating 1 unitary one
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Worry of divided loyalties of Canadians between federal and provincial gov’ns
4.3 The Original Design of the Federal Union
John A. Macdonald argued that the Fathers of Confederation gave “all the great subjects
of legislation” to the federal Parliament
CA 1867; legislatures of the provinces had jurisdiction over matters of a strictly
local/private nature in the province (i.e., hospitals, charities, property, municipal
Federal gov’n powers of reservation and disallowance made the provincial level
subordinate to it
Some say CA 1867 establishes a quasi-federal system, in which the federal
gov’n is the dominant partner
4.4 The Historical Development of Federalism in Canada
Canada has one of the most decentralized federal unions in the world
Fathers of Confederation intended to create a highly centralized federal union
which the federal gov’n would dominate
Federal systems aren’t rigid and can evolve over time
Public favour=most influential factor shaping the strength of the 2 levels of gov’n
Historical development of Canadian federalism can be divided into 5 diff. periods
Quasi-federalism (1867-1896)
Rise of Conservative Party
National gov’n much stronger than provincial gov’ns
Provincial legislation occasionally reserved/disallowed
Large initiatives not taken by provinces
Classic federalism (1896-1914)
Rise of Liberal Party
Balance of power shifted to a more equal relationship between the
provinces and Ottawa
Scope of provincial jurisdictions expanded in areas like property and civil
Judicial Committee declared the Constitution would be interpreted in light
of the principles of classical federalism, according to which each level of
gov’n is sovereign in the jurisdictions assigned to it
Emergency federalism (1914-1960)
Balance of power swung back toward the federal gov’n
World Wars required strong/decisive leadership and command of the
economy and society that could only be provided by a national gov’n
Economic collapse of Western democracies and massive depression
between the wars
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