Acting on Alienation? Federal Political Culture and the Case of Alberta

Author: Jamie M. Thomas – Concepts of regionalism, alienation, secession, and separation are not new in federal studies. These ideas have been discussed at length in the Canadian case, especially concerning Quebec, and highlight the tension between shared-rule and self-rule in federal countries. In an extremely decentralized and geographically dispersed federation like Canada, it is important to understand the dynamics behind these concepts and how they present differently across the country. Examining how these sentiments differ from each other and have developed within the same federal system can contribute to a greater understanding of the complexities of ‘togetherness and apartness’ in Canada – and by extension – in other federal countries too. Using political culture to explore the origins of and continued support for these concepts in provinces outside Quebec provides an opportunity to assess the current state of federalism in Canada, as well as what actions can be undertaken to improve relationships between the provinces and the federal government.

Canadian Fiscal Federalism – The Question of Intergovernmental Transfers

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Aracelly Denise Granja – The effectiveness of fiscal transfers between the federal and provincial governments continues to be a topic of debate amongst scholars and public officials alike. As such, the sixth and final panel of the Fiscal Federalism in Canada virtual conference culminated with a discussion regarding the Canadian fiscal transfer system. The panel was moderated by Linda Cardinal and was composed of three academics who specialize in the field of fiscal federalism: James Feehan, Kyle Hanniman and Geneviève Tellier. As the closing panel of the conference, the dialogue centred around the programs and institutions that could be implemented in order to improve the fiscal intergovernmental relationship between the federal and provincial governments.

Canadian Fiscal Federalism – The Ebb and Flow of the Canadian Transfer System

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Silvana Gomes – Balance, fairness, and equality are the key ideas behind the Canadian transfer system, which is structured around three main components: the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), the Canada Social Transfer (CST), and the Equalization program. These components are the building blocks of an intergovernmental framework that governs the federal-provincial flow of resources that supports funding for many policies.

Exploring the Role of Emerging Actors in the Canadian Fiscal Federal System

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Lydia Zhou – In Canada, the constitutional allocation of powers gives federal and provincial governments the most important and broad-based sources of taxation. As a result, the federal and provincial governments are the most influential and studied players in the arena—but they are not alone. It was, therefore, interesting to see speakers highlight the importance of actors such as Indigenous peoples and municipal governments at the Fiscal Federalism in Canada Conference’s second panel on Emerging Issues.

The Road Ahead: Fiscal Federalism in Canada and the Challenges of Multi-Level Governance, Population Aging and Universal Education Financing

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Pauliana Borgella – The cohesion of collective action remains a constant quest for any government concerned with results. This search for cohesion is an essential lever of public management and is increasingly important in a federation such as Canada, where public powers are shared between the federal government, the provinces and territories and the municipalities. It is visible in the institutional arrangements linking the different tiers of Canadian public governance, of which fiscal federalism is an essential element.

Provincial and Regional Perspectives on Fiscal Federalism in Canada

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Jackson Reggie – According to former senior federal public servant and academic Matthew Mendelsohn, equalization and other fiscal transfers are the “primary way we ensure that many of the social benefits of Canadian citizenship are enjoyed by residents of all regions, including those that are less prosperous” (2013, p. 7). Payments from the federal government distributes revenue collected from “have provinces” to “have not provinces” to support the provision of public services at “reasonably comparable” levels between provinces (Flanagan, 2021; Dahlby, 2014).

Do Past Compromises Ensure Future Ones? Fiscal Federalism in Canada Under Challenge

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Julien Doris – Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government has had to resort largely to its spending power to support the provinces and territories. In opening the first panel of the Conference on Fiscal Federalism, Gilbert Charland, Quebec’s Deputy Minister for Canadian Relations, highlighted two central issues for the future: the anticipated imbalance in health care spending (Conseil de la Fédération, 2021) and the updating of equalization parameters (The Globe and Mail, 2021). While discussing the constitutional elements and historical advancements of fiscal federalism, the following sections will also highlight some short- and longer-term economic issues.

Enduring and Contemporary Challenges to Fiscal Federalism in Canada

Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Éric Desrochers – Opening session: Wednesday, April 21 (1:00 pm to 2:30 pm ET)
The opening session of the “Fiscal federalism in Canada” virtual conference was a panel of scholars and practitioners of fiscal federalism, featuring Louis Lévesque, Richard Bird, and Jim Dinning as panellists, and Madeleine Drohan as moderator. The panel centred on current issues in Canadian fiscal federalism and their interactions with the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as an introduction to two full days of discussions about fiscal federalism.

Digitalization in Federal Governments: Impacts on Service Delivery

Author: Soumaya Marhnouj – In the age of digital technology, it has become the norm to rely more upon online applications for access to public services and programs as internet connectivity has proliferated. In Canada, 98% of households have access to fixed broadband internet access, and more than 87% have a home Internet subscription. Furthermore, over 88% of the population have a smartphone and 45% of them check their smartphone every 30 minutes. Not only are people more interconnected than ever, but technology is increasingly relied upon in a manner that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. We see this technological shift in almost every aspect of life; government actors, government services, and public information should be no exception. Federal and unitary governments worldwide are embracing – and being expected to embrace – technology in the exercise of their functions. Central and subnational governments can use these technologies to fulfill primary goals in service provision, including “improving efficiency and service quality by reducing service lead times, increasing transparency, and offering seamless service provision across organizations.” This practice is known as digital government.   

Consigned Coffers: A Review of Intergovernmental Revenue-Sharing

Author: Emilie Tremblay – While there are over two dozen countries that can be considered federal states, these countries and the composition of their political systems vary greatly. The commonality they all share is that each has at least two orders of government, referred to here as the central and constituent governments, to which specific authorities and responsibilities are allocated by constitutional provision.