Distribution of Powers

… a core term used in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Writing in the Canadian Encyclopedia (reference below), Gérald Beaudoin defines distribution of powers in Canada as the division of legislative powers and responsibilities between the two orders of government – federal and provincial – outlined in the Constitution Act, 1867.

Beaudoin writes:

“The history of Canadian federalism is basically an account of disputes over the distribution of powers. From the 1880s until the 1930s federal powers waned relatively, largely because the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ignored the centralist intentions of many (but not all) of the Constitution’s creators, favouring provincial autonomy in its interpretation of the Constitution Act, 1867. The Supreme Court of Canada, on the other hand, has in its judgements tended generally to strengthen the legislative powers of the federal government in some areas.

“Despite several constitutional conferences between the provinces and the federal government, there have been few amendments to the division of powers. Even the Meech Lake Accord – negotiated in 1987 but ultimately never implemented – would have produced no significant changes to the distribution of powers set out in the Constitution, other than to expand provincial power in appointments to the Supreme Court and the Senate, and to create a slight provincial enhancement in the shared jurisdiction of immigration.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Federalism (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Gérald Beaudoin (2006), revised by Daniel Panneton (2015), Distribution of Powers, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/distribution-of-powers/, accessed 1 September 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 1 September 2016.