Canada: The State of the Federation 2002: Reconsidering the Institutions of Canadian Federalism
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.
Canada: The State of the Federation 2002 is a comprehensive analysis of
the state of federal–provincial relations in Canada during 2002. This
year’s annual review comprises 16 papers and includes a chapter
outlining the most significant events in intergovernmental relations
during the year. Contributors to the volume are drawn largely from the
ranks of political science, many of whom participated in a conference at
Queen’s University in November 2001. The fact that some 24 authors and
co-authors worked on the chapters that make up this extensive study of
Canadian federalism makes the unity of purpose and coherency of message
all the more impressive.
All chapters take institutions and institutional analysis as
fundamental. The first section deals with a variety of traditional
institutions—Parliament, Cabinet, the Supreme Court, and political
parties—and examines their ability (or inability) to provide effective
forums for intergovernmental contact. The critiques are many, but the
conclusion is the same: the performance of traditional institutions like
political parties in acting as bridges between federal and provincial
governments has deteriorated. As Canada shifts from the co-operative
federalism of the 1950s and 1960s to a form of collaborative federalism
that emphasizes greater interdependence and parity between levels of
government, the need for alternative institutions becomes greater. The
result has been the development of “peak institutions” such as the
First Ministers’ Conference, the Annual Premiers’ Conference, the
Western Premiers’ Conference, and the Council of Atlantic Premiers.
These are discussed in the second section of the volume.
Also included in this section are key issues facing intergovernmental
relationships—namely, globalization and urbanization. New
relationships are now developing between the provinces and foreign
(especially American state) governments. In addition, new relationships
are developing between the federal government and municipalities. These
trends demonstrate a blurring of the responsibilities of the federal
government (external affairs) and provincial governments (municipal
affairs). Several papers discuss these changes and the need to develop
rules and institutions for managing these relationships.
The volume concludes with several innovative proposals for improving
the Canadian federation, while admitting that tensions and conflicts
have always been and will continue to be a part of Canadian federalism.