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.   

Federalism: a Viable Peacebuilding Tool?

Author: Victoria Rose King – Since the end of the Cold War, the frequency with which federalism has been adopted as a peacebuilding tool in deeply divided states has increased. This is due to its perceived “ability to satisfy the aspirations and demands of both minority and majority groups: giving minority groups (limited) control over their own economic, political and social affairs, while also sustaining the territorial integrity of the extant state” (Anderson & Keil, 2017).

Protest in Melbourne, Australia for Invasion Day 2020 Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Movements Toward Reconciliation? Federalism and Indigenous Rights in Australia and Canada

Author: K. Hunter – Canada and Australia have long faced scrutiny for human rights abuses against their Indigenous populations since colonization. Consequently, Indigenous communities continue to struggle with gaining recognition and respect of their rights as colonial structures persist in the present day. However, efforts in both these countries by their Indigenous populations seek to change the way these relationships are viewed and interpreted, amid calls for both constitutional reform and greater recognition of Indigenous rights.

Pandemic Policing and Federal Pathways for Democratization

Author: Asma Zribi – The outbreak of COVID-19 impacted how governments operate and deliver services, including security. The pandemic shone a spotlight on governance shortcomings in supporting the most vulnerable and underrepresented populations, who have been disproportionately impacted in health and economic terms. State security providers, in their turn, have been required to cooperate with public health authorities, adapt to rapidly changing emergency regulations, and provide services that are not generally within their mandates.