Federalism in Canada

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Since federalism was introduced as an aspect of Canadian political identity, the country has undergone multiple changes as to how federalism works; in other words, over the decades the federal and provincial governments have not always acted in the same way as they do now. Canada, for example, once experienced quasi-federalism, where the provinces are made subordinate to Ottawa. Currently we are in an era of what has been coined “collaborative federalism”. Essentially, as the title would suggest, it implies that the federal and provincial levels of government work together more closely to enact and make policy changes. Unfortunately, this era of collaborative federalism may be ending sooner rather than later – in the past couple decades, the federal and provincial governments have been known to squabble over any and all policy changes in sectors such as health, the environment and fiscal issues. Generally, one would assume that in a regime employing collaborative federalism there would be a certain amount of collaboration. Lately, it seems as though the only time policy changes can take place the federal government is needed to work unilaterally. One area in which collaborative federalism has been nonexistent and unilateral federalism has prevailed and positively affected policy changes is in the Post-Secondary Education (PSE) sector.

As Bakvis writes, “the transformation of Canada’s university system… came about largely through the effort of the federal government alone,” (Bakvis 205). There are a few key abnormalities to this statement, one being pertinent to the CA 1867. When one looks at the constitution, under sections 91 and 92, anyone remotely well-versed in Canadian politics would know that those two sections outline w...

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To conclude, in the present Canadians are seeing change in PSE funding policies begin to come from the provinces. Due to the fact that “when Ottawa went against the grain and launched the Millennium Scholarship programs, provincial feathers, especially Quebec’s, were immediately ruffled,” provinces such as Quebec and British Columbia, among others, were motivated to “set up their own research funding agencies with the view to [maximize] the likelihood of obtaining funds from Ottawa,” (Bakvis 216). As for the legitimacy of cooperative federalism in Canada today, it seems as though executive federalism itself is turning largely paternalistic – at least in the sense of PSE. More often than not, in PSE funding, the federal government has taken the initiative while “one set of executives – those from provincial governments – was largely absent,” (Bakvis 218).
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