A Federalist’s Defence of Decentralization

  • Ian Peach


The desire to constrain the federal government’s role is by no means new. Limiting federal authority to act in areas assigned by the Constitution to the provinces, through the limitation of the federal spending power, has been an issue on Quebec’s political agenda even before the Quiet Revolution and has been part of Canada’s intergovernmental agenda for decades. Nonetheless, there is still value in having a federal government play a role in making public policy, as long as the extent and limit of that role is properly understood and respected. This paper reviews the case for a federal role, the case for limitations on that role, and the importance of effective intergovernmental coordination to replace unilateral federal action in areas of provincial jurisdiction. It will review when and how the federal government could better exercise its powers to contribute more effectively to solving public policy problems and will discuss balancing the decentralization of authority with strong norms of intergovernmental coordination, through the more effective use of the mechanisms of intergovernmental decision-making. This can be more effective in addressing national policy problems than the federal unilateralism and “direction setting” on which we have come too much to rely.


Federal Government National Policy Child Poverty Ministerial Council Spending Power 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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