Unfulfilled Union: Canadian Federalism and National Unity. 4th ed.


314 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2744-3
DDC 320.471




Reviewed by Jeffrey J. Cormier

Jeffrey J. Cormier is an assistant professor of sociology at the
University of Western Ontario in London. He is the author of The
Canadianization Movement: Emergence, Survival and Success.


This is the fourth edition of a book that was originally published in
1979. In his introduction, Stevenson readily admits that the context of
the time—namely, the approach of the 1980 Quebec sovereignty
referendum—had an enormous impact on the basic argument of the book.
That argument is easily summarized: over the years a variety of social,
political, and economic centrifugal forces have placed greater power in
the hands of provincial governments at the expense of federal unity. It
amasses historical and comparative evidence to demonstrate how Sir John
A. Macdonald’s vision of a strong central federal state for Canada has
been painstakingly eroded.

Each chapter contributes to Stevenson’s central theme. He traces the
history of the Supreme Court and judicial review, maintaining that the
Canadian Court has consistently ruled in favour of the provinces. He
looks at the Canadian class system and shows how shifting class
alliances usually end with support for increasing provincial economic
power. Nationalism in Quebec and the battles in that province have
affected Canadian federalism, according to Stevenson, especially since
the Quiet Revolution. Further, he examines the Canada–U.S. free trade
agreement and the difficulty the federal government has had in setting
Canada-wide economic policies. Also on the economic front, he explores
the ongoing disputes over fiscal federalism, analyzing the history of a
variety of cost-sharing programs. He even devotes a chapter to the
causes of federal–provincial conflict and proposes a variety of
interesting solutions.

Aside from its strong, determined argument—Stevenson reports being
called a Hamiltonian centralist, or in Canadian terms a Macdonaldian
federalist—this book has much to recommend it, even considering its
original date of publication. It makes excellent use of Canadian history
and places theoretical discussions of federalism in a historical and
comparative perspective. Federalists will adore it, and decentralists
will despise it. Either way it makes for interesting reading.


Stevenson, Garth., “Unfulfilled Union: Canadian Federalism and National Unity. 4th ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16547.