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Canada’s Federal System. Is it an obstacle or an opportunity to a green economy? . What is Federalism?. Federalism is a system of government where two levels of government exist, each sovereign in its sphere of jurisdiction

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canada s federal system

Canada’s Federal System

Is it an obstacle or an opportunity to a green economy?

what is federalism
What is Federalism?
  • Federalism is a system of government where two levels of government exist, each sovereign in its sphere of jurisdiction
  • The federal or central level takes care of all of those things that are common to the whole of the country while the provinces have jurisdiction over those things that are of local concern
main features
Main Features
  • There are two sovereign levels of government created & protected by the Constitution
  • Each level of government has powers that are guaranteed by the Constitution
  • The central government will receive the external signs of sovereignty & economic powers while the rest is subjected to a process of bargaining & power allocation
  • Each level of government is given autonomous revenue sources so that it can finance it’s operation
federalism is to be contrasted to
Federalism is to be contrasted to:
  • The Unitary system
    • A single sovereign government with the local governments subordinated to the central authority
  • The Confederal system
    • The central government is subordinated to the other member-states who retain full sovereignty
federalism is usually adopted in countries that
Federalism is usually adopted in countries that:
  • Display differences of climate, geography, religion, language, culture & economies                                        
  • Multinational & multicultural states that wish to preserve these characteristics  
  • Are too large for a single government to handle        
  • Are composed of regions that share a common external threat
  • Provides a framework & governance on interprovincial areas & those of mutual interest
  • Provides an opportunity for geographical wealth distribution
  • Allows provinces to retain a level of autonomy over local environmental & economic issues
  • Diffusion of political accountability & responsibility
  • Creates the possibility of dependence on resource wealth of other areas
  • Separate jurisdictions make policy implementation difficult & can create jurisdictional competition
    • “command & control” approach very difficult
  • Increases competition for prestige & blaming between political actors and levels of government
  • Can be expensive because of duplication
  • Can create interprovincial competition to decrease business costs
basis for canadian federalism
Basis for Canadian Federalism
  • Originally called the British North America Act of 1867, it was renamed the Constitution Act of 1867 in 1982
  • The is a division of powers outlined in the Constitution
    • At the outset of confederation, 16 enumerated powers in section 92 were given to the provinces with everything else—the residual powers—left to Ottawa, in section 91
  • The constitution gave Ottawa the power to levy any mode or system of taxation
canadian federalism the environment a nuanced approach to the frame work
Canadian Federalism & the Environment “A Nuanced Approach to the frame work”
  • Overlap between inter-governmental powers can cause uncertainty & ambiguity about authoritative limits
  • Canada has a history of being a resource-based economy (Staples Theory)
  • Political interpretations of what a “Green Economy” means differ
federalism allows a framework for retaining local autonomy
Federalism allows a Framework for Retaining Local Autonomy
  • Section 109 in the Constitution Act gives the provinces ownership of all lands, mines & minerals in the public domain within their borders
  • Section 92A updates & expands the powers granted in Section 109
  • Federal jurisdiction has not proven an impediment to provinces if they so please to pass legislation to protect the environment
practical obstacles for provinces in creating a green economy
Practical Obstacles for Provinces in creating a Green Economy
  • Reliance on resources as a revenue base
  • No extra-provincial effect for individual province's laws (ex. air pollution)
  • Municipalities are subordinate to the provinces
the obstacles the federal government will face
The Obstacles the Federal Government will face
  • Diffuse Methods of Control makes a "command & control" approach difficult
    • Ownership issues
    • Indirect regulation from the federal level (fisheries & shipping)
  • Political cost diffusion
  • Governments rationally like to do things that increase chance of re-election
    • Copenhagen fiasco
how the federal framework can be both a benefit and an obstacle
How the Federal Framework can be both a Benefit and an Obstacle
  • Canada Wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization, 1998
  • The Five Year Review in 2003
the red chris project
The Red Chris Project
  • A gold and copper mine that is planning to open in north-western BC
  • Located in an area called “Scared Headwaters” (belonging to the Tahltan First Nations)
  • Within the area, three major salmon-bearing rivers (Department of Fisheries & Oceans responsibility)
  • A case where the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) is going to be going under review because of this project.
why such a big deal
Why such a big deal?
  • The problem of duplication: The Department of Fisheries & Oceans did not do their own assessment
    • 2005ENV0071-000759.pdf
  • The federal government violated Section 91(24) by not consulting the First Nations people
  • As well, Section 21 in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) was violated.
  • Federal & Provincial authorities need to harmonize their respective review processes
  • Avoiding costly duplication & uncertainty was the key issue in this case for both levels of government and business
  • Was it a win for a greener economy?
    • Revision of the CEAA
    • A ruling was made recently on this case between MiningWatchCanada & the Federal government
  • Limited legislative & taxation powers reside at the local level resulting in limited self-determination for local communities
  • How one interprets the green economy will determine to what extent they see Canadian Federal system as an obstacle or an opportunity.
  • Living with a historical legacy
  • The ambiguity & silence of the Constitution on certain issues & jurisdictional conflict makes effective policy implementation difficult
  • Federalism, Federative Systems, and Federations: The United States, Canada, and IndiaDouglas V. VerneyPublius, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 81-9
  • Rand Dyck, Canadian Politics: Critical Approaches. Canada: Thomson Nelson, 2008.
  • Green Party, “Infrastructure and Communities”; available at; Internet; accessed 25 January 2010.
discussion question
Discussion Question
  • What is the best way to overcome the disparity between municipal responsibilities & their revenue base? Do you agree with the Green party’s idea that the federal government should fund municipal green initiatives?