Pierre Trudeau: Federalism has all along been a product of reason in politics … it is an attempt to find a rational compromise between the divergent interest-groups which history has thrown together; but it is a compromise based on the will of the people.



The basis for politics is the continual effort of balancing fundamental values like democracy, individual and collective rights and so on. This constant building of balance is how we build our political communities.

  It is this sense of a state made up of communities that leads to federalism as a process of governing.

· Federalism:

· federalism can be seen as a mechanism for maintaining a balance between communities

o rather than providing a solution for territorial and linguistic cleavages, it is a dynamic process used to continually perform a balancing act.

· Origins of federal democracies lie in compromise


Quasi-federalism 1867 - 1896


Inter-state/intrastate federalism

· Federal principle of regional representation is embodied in the Canadian Senate, and in the Cabinet and other federal appointments

Classical federalism 1896-1914

· Provinces and federal government acted fairly independently as the degree of intersection of programs is low.

Emergency federalism 1914-1920.

· More centralized with a more clear cut interpretation of the emergency provision of POGG and the War Measures Act.

Cooperative federalism post-war period


The Court:

Most narratives on the development of federalism look at the changes brought about by legal interpretation

· Court rulings seldom put an end to conflicts between Ottawa and the provinces

· The legal disputes are only symptomatic of underlying tensions at the root of intergovernmental conflict.

  1. the status of Quebec and the powers of the Quebec state
  2. relations between the more heavily industrialized and populous center of the country and the outlying western and eastern region
  3. political and administrative needs of government


Symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical federalism

·  two against ten

Contract and Compact theories of federalism


When the political and administrative needs of governments are reinforced by the demands of provincially oriented economic interests this may give rise to what has been called province-building.

Trudeau, the Charter and Federalism

Meech Lake

Charlottetown Accord

Federal–Provincial conferences and Executive federalism:

"Canadian federalism is about government, governments that are possessed of massive human and financial resource that are driven by purposes fashioned by elite and that accord high priority to their own long-term institutional self-interest." – Alain Cairns

Divided and shared jurisdiction has given rise to a network of relations linking the federal and provincial governments.

Executive Federalism

The characteristics of executive federalism are out of sync with the less deferential political culture that has evolved in Canada over the last generation. Governments will continue to conduct much of their negotiations behind closed doors and the constitutional division of powers will continue to be characterized by overlap and ambiguity. But public acceptance of this and other elitist forms of policy-making is today much weaker than in the past." – Stephen Brooks 

 the intergovernmental network, as it is in the EU, can be a target for those groups demanding access and influence. – Brian Tanguay