Federalism

… a core topic in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

FederalismTopic description

This topic deals with the nature of the federal system where there is a constitutionally based division of power between a central governing authority and various sub-national units, including the roles and responsibilities of the central authority and the sub-national jurisdictions. 

Topic learning outcome

Upon completing this topic the student will be familiar with nature of the federal system and will be familiar with the concepts in the table below.

Core concepts associated with this topic
Federalism

Forum of Federations

Multilevel Governance

Multiple Identities

Distribution of Powers

Fiscal Imbalance

Equalization Formula

Classical Federalism

Cooperative Federalism

Competitive Federalism

Constitutional Federalism

Collaborative Federalism

Asymmetrical Federalism

Council of the Federation

Intergovernmental Relations

Multilateral Collaboration with Diffuse Reciprocity

Bilateral Negotiation with Specific Reciprocity

Unilateral Action with Particular Interests

Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat

Atlas resource pages associated with this topic

Minimum Carbon Tax Story (an Atlas case news story)

Recommended readings for 8 hours of preparation

Concept pages above.

Robert Schertzer (and Andrew McDougall and Grace Skogstad, 2016), Collaboration and Unilateralism – explaining recent trends in IGR, Presentation to PPG1000 class, 26 October 2016, at http://www.atlas101.ca/pm/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Collab-and-Unilat_PPG1000_Final.pdf.

Garth Stevenson (2006), Federalism, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/federalism/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Gerald Beaudoin (2006) and Daniel Panneton (2015), Distribution of Powers, Canadian Encyclopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/distribution-of-powers/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Richard Simeon (2006), Federal-Provincial Relations, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/federal-provincial-relations/, accessed 3 September 2016.

W.H. McConnell (2006), Constitutional History, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/constitutional-history/, accessed 3 September 2016.

R. Hudon and Dominique Millette (2013), Québec Referendum (1980), Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/quebec-referendum-1980/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Gerald L. Gall (2006), Meech Lake Accord, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/meech-lake-accord/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Gerald L. Gall (2006), Charlottetown Accord, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-charlottetown-accord/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Gerald L. Gall (2013), Québec Referendum (1995), Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/quebec-referendum-1995/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Canadian Encyclopedia (2013), The Clarity Act (Bill C-20), at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-clarity-act-bill-c-20/, accessed 3 September 2016.

A. Rodney Dobell (2006), Intergovernmental Finance, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/intergovernmental-finance/, accessed 3 September 2016.

T.J. Courchene (2006), Equalization Payments, Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/equalization-payments/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Édison Roy-César (2013), Canada’s Equalization Formula, Library of Parliament Research Publications, at http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/ResearchPublications/2008-20-e.htm, accessed 4 September 2016.

Brian Doody (2007), Fiscal Imbalance Debate: Origins and Perspectives, Mapleleafweb, at http://mapleleafweb.com/features/fiscal-imbalance-debate-origins-and-perspectives, accessed 3 September 2007.

Jeffrey Simpson (2015), Today’s fiscal imbalance is real, not imagined, Globe and Mail, 12 May 2015, at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/todays-fiscal-imbalance-is-real-not-imagined/article24398966/, accessed 3 September 2016.

Open source resources on Canadian federalism

Library and Archives Canada archived site on Canadian Confederation at http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/index-e.html, including:

Privy Council Office Intergovernmental Affairs site at http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/aia/index.asp?lang=eng&page=index, including:

Recommended readings in MPP and MPA courses

Toronto PPG1000 Governance and Institutions (two sessions)

Simeon, Richard, Ian Robinson, and Jennifer Wallner. 2014. “The Dynamics of Canadian Federalism,” in Canadian Politics, 6th ed., eds. James Bickerton and Alain-G. Gagnon, pp. 65-91. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Brown, Douglas M. 2012. “Fiscal Federalism: Maintaining a Balance,” in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 118-140. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Lecours, André, and Daniel Béland. 2010. “Federalism and Fiscal Policy: The Politics of Equalization in Canada.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 40(4): 569-596.

Bakvis, Herman, and Grace Skogstad. 2012. “Taking Stock of Canadian Federalism,” in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 340-357. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Atkinson, Michael M., Daniel Béland, Gregory P. Marchildon, Kathleen McNutt, Peter W.B. Phillips, and Ken Rasmussen. 2013. “Intergovernmentalism and Provincial Policy Setting,” in Governance and Public Policy in Canada: A View from the Provinces, pp. 1-22. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Schertzer, Robert, Andrew McDougall, and Grace Skogstad. 2016. “Collaboration and Unilateralism: Explaining Recent Dynamics of Intergovernmental Relations in Canada.” Working paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Political Science Association.

Concept comprehension questions

AQ100.06.01. Among statements a-d pertaining to federalism choose one that is invalid if all but one are valid or choose e if non are valid.

a. Federalism is a political system in which government power and responsibility is divided between a federal legislature and a number of state or provincial legislatures.

b. Tensions between “local autonomy” and “central authority” are inherent in federal all states but these tensions have since the 1950s been less pronounced in Canada than in other federations such as the United States, Germany, and Australia.

c. Federalism is one of the three institutional pillars of Canadian government (the other two being parliamentary or Cabinet government and, since 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) that coexist in a dynamic tension because each embodies a somewhat different conception of democracy.

d. Differences of opinion about the nature of federalism have been sharper in Canada over a longer period than in most federations, and no consensus has ever been achieved regarding the appropriate relationship between the two levels of government.

e. None of a-d is a valid statement.

AQ100.06.02. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Forum of Federations choose one that is invalid if all but one are valid or choose e if non are valid.

a. The Forum of Federations is a United Nations body created to discuss issues of interest to federal states and most of the world’s federations are members.

b. The Forum of Federations is a learning network concerned with promoting intergovernmental learning on governance challenges in multi-level democracies.

c. The Forum of Federations is an international governance organization founded by Canada and funded by nine other partner governments – Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Switzerland.

d. The Forum is not an advocacy organization and doesn’t advocate for any particular structure of government.

e. None of a-d is a valid statement.

AQ100.06.03. Among statements a-d pertaining to multilevel governance choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Multilevel governance takes place in international institutions like the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, where decisions are made at both the national and supranational level.

b. Although the idea of multilevel governance was initially developed around the European Union, it has been applied in other areas of study such as in the study of federal states in comparative politics.

c. Multilevel governance sees European policy as the result of a constant coordination across different territorial levels (including a supranational, national, regional and local level) where the relationship between these different tiers is characterized by overlap and interdependence.

d. Multilevel governance occurs when experts from several tiers of government share the task of making regulations and forming policy, usually in conjunction with relevant interest groups.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.04. Among statements a-d pertaining to multiple identities choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Multiple identities is one of the underpinnings of federalism in that citizens can be members of both a national community, ideally embodied in the national government, and provincial communities reflected in their provincial governments.

b. Federalism is about the coexistence of multiple loyalties and identities.

c. Federalism is about divided and shared authority.

d. Federalism is about self-rule and shared rule.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.05. Among statements a-d pertaining to distribution of powers choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Distribution of powers in Canada means the division of legislative powers and responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments outlined in the Constitution Act, 1867.

b. The history of Canadian federalism is basically an account of disputes over the distribution of powers.

c. From the 1880s until the 1930s federal powers increased relatively, largely because the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council respected the centralist intentions of many (but not all) of the Constitution’s creators, favouring national authority in its interpretation of the Constitution Act, 1867.

d. The Supreme Court of Canada has in its judgements has strengthened the legislative powers of the federal government in some areas.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.06. Among statements a-d pertaining to fiscal imbalance choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Fiscal imbalance occurs when government spending is consistently higher than government revenue.

b. Vertical fiscal imbalance is the imbalance between the national and provincial levels of government (for example, when the responsibilities of provinces are disproportionately large compared with their share of the revenues).

c. Vertical fiscal imbalance can be remedied by a transfer of responsibilities from one level to another or by transfer of revenues.

d. Horizontal fiscal imbalance is the imbalance among the provinces themselves and it can be mitigated through equalization payments.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.07. Among statements a-d pertaining to equalization formula choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Canada’s equalization formula as the mathematical formula to determine which provinces are eligible for the transfer and the amount of each eligible province’s payment.

b. Equalization helps to ensure that Canadians residing in provinces have access to a reasonably similar level of provincial government services at reasonably similar levels of taxation, regardless of which province they call home.

c. On a per capita basis, Canada’s equalization formula assesses a province’s ability to generate own-source revenues and compares that fiscal capacity to the average fiscal capacity for all provinces.

d. Canada’s equalization formula transfers provincial tax revenues of provinces in a with a higher than average fiscal capacity to provinces with a lower than average fiscal capacity.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.08. Among statements a-d pertaining to classical federalism choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Classical federalism is a term used to describe the way the Canadian federation operated for most of the period from Confederation to the Great Depression.

b. The end of World War II and the return of growth in resource revenues in the 1960s produced a better balance in fiscal capacities between federal and provincial governments and enabled a return to classical federalism after the mid-1960s.

c. With important exceptions, such as battles between Ontario and Ottawa over resources and timber exports, intergovernmental conflict in the era of classical federalism was relatively muted.

d. The approach to federalism followed by the government of Stephen Harper bore much resemblance to classical federalism.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.09. Among statements a-d pertaining to cooperative federalism choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The term cooperative federalism is used to describe the way the Canadian federation operated in the post-war period to the mid-1960s.

b. The era of cooperative federalism saw dramatic growth in the federal government’s responsibility for the basic income security system through unemployment insurance, pensions, and family allowances.

c. During the post-war years when Maurice Duplessis was premier (1944-1959), the Quebec government agreed to the expansion of federal programs provided it had the flexibility to accommodate the demands of the Catholic Church and other advocacy groups to have the provincial government to deliver integrated social programs along the lines of those being introduced by social democratic governments in France and Germany.

d. In provinces outside Quebec, during the era of cooperative federalism most of the expansion of federal responsibility occurred without major federal-provincial tension.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.10. Among statements a-d pertaining to competitive federalism choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The term competitive federalism is used to describe the way the Canadian federation operated in the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

b. The principal motivation underlying competitive federalism was the recognition of the need to make Canada more competitive internationally and to have governments operate more efficiently.

c. Competitive federalism refers to several changes from the postwar cooperative model: the escalation of interregional and intergovernmental conflict, stronger pressures for decentralization, and expansion by both levels of government into new policy fields.

d. Competitive federalism increased the tension between province-building and nation-building and led to greater efforts by both levels of government to mobilize their populations around competing images of federalism and how it should work.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.11. Among statements a-d pertaining to constitutional federalism choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The term constitutional federalism is used to describe the attempts in the 1980s and early 1990s to reform federalism through amendments to the 1982 constitutional settlement.

b. The 1982 constitutional settlement was a compromise: the nation-centred view was reflected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to be enforced by the Supreme Court; the province-centred view was reflected in the amending formula, which ensured a strong provincial role in future amendment.

c. The advent of the Charter had shifted the constitutional discourse: now it was less about governing the relations among governments than a vehicle for popular sovereignty, defining the relations between citizens and governments, and the constitutional agenda broadened vastly.

d. The constitutional changes made in the 15 years following the 1982 settlement, while contentious at the time, dealt with enough of the key outstanding issues to permit a relatively benign framework for federalism so far in the 21st Century.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.12. Among statements a-d pertaining to collaborative federalism choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The term collaborative federalism was used by the Canadian federal government and many provincial governments to describe efforts since the mid-1990s to improve the operation of the federation.

b. Intergovernmental collaboration since the mid-1990s has been helped by “constitutional fatigue” and by the fact that challenges of economic competitiveness and deficit control produced a demands for governments to work together.

c. The first major product of the collaborative federalism era was the 1994 Agreement on Internal Trade which was intended to address long-standing concerns about the strength of the Canadian economic union through intergovernmental collaboration.

d. The second major product of the collaborative federalism era was the 1999 Social Union Framework Agreement which included such commitments as equality of treatment across the country, access by all Canadians to adequate social programs wherever they live, the reduction of barriers to mobility among provinces, and greater transparency and accountability. For its part, Ottawa agreed that when using conditional transfers, it would “proceed in a cooperative manner that is respectful of the provincial and territorial governments and their priorities.”

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.13. Among statements a-d pertaining to asymmetrical federalism choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Asymmetrical federalism refers to a federal system of government in which power is unevenly divided between states such that some states have greater responsibilities or more autonomy than others.

b. An example of asymmetrical federalism in Canada is Quebec’s criminal justice system where, because Quebec operates under its own set of criminal statutes, Quebec rather than Ottawa makes judicial appointments to Quebec criminal courts.

c. An example of asymmetrical federalism in Canada is that Quebec operates its own pension plan, while the other nine provinces are covered by the federal/provincial Canada Pension Plan. Quebec has extensive authority over employment and immigration issues within its borders, matters that are handled by the federal government in all the other provinces

d. An example of asymmetrical federalism in Canada can be found in the terms of the September 2004 federal-provincial-territorial agreement on health care where Quebec will apply its own wait time reduction plan in accordance with the objectives, standards and criteria established by the relevant Quebec authorities and that funding made available by the Government of Canada will be used by the Government of Quebec to implement its own plan for renewing Quebec’s health system.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.14. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Council of the Federation choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Canada’s Prime Minister and 13 provincial and territorial Premiers are members of the Council of the Federation.

b. The Council of the Federation is supported by a small Secretariat located in Ottawa.

c. The Council of the Federation’s objectives include the promotion of interprovincial-territorial cooperation and closer ties between Premiers, to ultimately strengthen Canada.

d. The Council of the Federation’s objectives include fostering meaningful relations between governments based on respect for the Constitution and recognition of the diversity within the federation.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.15. Among statements a-d pertaining to the intergovernmental relations choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. In Canada, intergovernmental relations typically refer to the relations among the various governments within a country and in Canada they usually refer to federal-provincial-territorial relations.

b. Canada, like most federations, has not formally anchored its intergovernmental structures and processes in its Constitution so that intergovernmental mechanisms have tended to evolve in response to changing political dynamics.

c. Intergovernmental relations is becoming less important in Canada as government’s proportion of overall economic activity is declining.

d. Intergovernmental relations remain important because central and provincial government activities are intertwined in a pattern of shared and overlapping responsibilities, shared authority and shared funding in many areas of public policy.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.16. Among statements a-d pertaining to the multilateral collaboration with diffuse reciprocity model choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Multilateral collaboration with diffuse reciprocity is characterized by a high level of federal-provincial-territorial engagement based on equality of orders and norms of co-ownership of policy field through strong intergovernmental institutions.

b. Multilateral collaboration with diffuse reciprocity cannot work at the level of officials if there is not a commitment to collaborate at the political level.

c. One requirement for multilateral collaboration with diffuse reciprocity is a high-level of trust among the actors involved such that there is a genuine commitment and acceptance of a set of consultative norms.

d. Collaborative intergovernmental relations involve a demonstrable commitment to the principle of diffuse reciprocity: that is, to an outcome that will eventually yield a rough equivalency of benefits for all parties over time.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.17. Among statements a-d pertaining to the bilateral negotiation with specific reciprocity model choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Bilateral negotiation with specific reciprocity is characterized by federal-single province dynamic, with joint ownership of a policy field based on equality of orders, but with recognition of the unique federal-provincial relationship.

b. The actual processes and institutions of relations in the bilateral model facilitate government-to-government negotiation and cooperation.

c. The outputs of the bilateral model, often bilateral agreements, tend to focus on the particularities of this relationship, while seeking to realize an immediate equivalency of interests on a quid-pro-quo basis.

d. Bilateral negotiation with specific reciprocity has rarely worked in Canada.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.18. Among statements a-d pertaining to unilateral action with particular interests model choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Unilateral action with particular interests by one government or another is becoming more prevalent in Canada, partly due to increased fiscal constraints and shorter news cycles.

b. The unilateral action with particular interests model is characterized by a strong sense that a government can legitimately act on its own in a policy area, even if it impacts another government without consultation.

c. Unilateral action can take two broad forms: governments undertaking the development and implementation of policy in an area understood as largely within their exclusive responsibility; or, one order of government unilaterally taking action understanding that it will significantly impact the other order of government.

c. The line between the two aspects of unilateralism is not as clear as it may seem: despite the formally exclusive nature of most federal-provincial areas of responsibility, there is widespread recognition in practice that there is considerable overlap.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.06.19. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat is an institution dedicated to supporting senior level intergovernmental conferences.

b. The Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat is an agency of the federal and provincial governments, funded by both level of governments and its staff includes federal and provincial/territorial public servants and, as such, acts as a neutral intergovernmental body.

c. The Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat is headquartered in Moncton and not in a federal or provincial capital to ensure impartiality.

d. The primary objective of the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat is to relieve client departments in virtually every major sector of intergovernmental activity, of the numerous technical and administrative tasks associated with the planning and conduct of multilateral conferences.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 3 February 2017.

Image: Madhesi Youth, at http://www.madhesiyouth.com/political/federalism-in-nepal-why-and-what-it-means-an-attempt-to-clarify-misconceptions/, accessed 18 August 2016.