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10/1/2018 Unit 3 – Study Guide
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Unit 3 ­ Study Guide
Unit 3 ­ Study Guide
Site: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Course: POLI 390: Canadian Federalism_ May2010
Book: Unit 3 ­ Study Guide
Printed by: Sara Al­Marashdeh
Date: Monday, 1 October 2018, 8:22 AM MDT
10/1/2018 Unit 3 – Study Guide
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Table of contents
Learning Objectives
Reading Assignment
Centralization and Decentralization
The Long­term Trend
Explanations for Canada’s Evolution
The Province­Building Debate
Notes on Terms
Study Questions
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Unit 3 continues the discussion from Unit 2 of changes in the responsibilities of the federal
and provincial governments. The level of analysis broadens in this unit, however, focusing
on the shifting balance of power within the Canadian federal system instead of on specific
government activities.
All federal systems possess a certain dynamic quality. As political institutions change and
adapt to new circumstances, the original alignment of political forces that produced a
federal union may be altered by events and forces totally unforeseen by that country’s
In Canada’s case, the federal system has evolved through various periods of centralization
and decentralization. The study of Canadian federalism, therefore, requires both a
knowledge of these periods and an explanation of the gradual erosion of federal dominance
over the provinces. Conflicts between different economic classes, strong regional
sentiments among the Canadian population, and “province­building” are often cited as
factors that have contributed to a weakening of the federal government’s position. A fourth
factor, Quebec nationalism, will be examined separately in Unit 4.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Learning Objectives
When you have completed Unit 3, you should be able to achieve the following learning
1. Identify and discuss distinct periods of centralization and decentralization in
Canadian history.
2. Discuss how Canada’s political evolution differs from that of most other federal
3. Identify and critique the various theories that have been put forth to explain the
economic underdevelopment of the Atlantic region.
4. Discuss how economic underdevelopment in the four Atlantic provinces has
conditioned their response to federal government initiatives and shaped their approach
to federal­provincial relations.
5. Describe how the parliamentary system of government constrains the expression of
regional differences and regional discontent.
6. Describe how the failure of intrastate federal institutions to provide adequate
representation to regional interests led to the growing emphasis on interstate
7. Discuss how and why Canadian regional development policies evolved the way they
8. Describe how globalization will affect the political economy of Canada’s regions.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Reading Assignment
Commentary for Unit 3.
Chapter 4: “The Political Economy of Decentralization,” in Unfulfilled Union, 5th
ed., by Garth Stevenson, pp. 72–93.
Reading 1: “The Atlantic Region: The Politics of Dependency,” by Donald J.
Savoie, in the Reading File.
Chapter 13: “Regional Development : A Policy for All Seasons and All Regions,”
by Donald J. Savoie, in New Trends in Canadian Federalism, 2nd ed., edited by
Rocher and Smith, pp. 353–374.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
A constitution provides a framework for the operation of a federal system of government.
Even so, the original allotment of government responsibilities can change both formally and
informally through time. The balance of power within a federal system, therefore, is
constantly in flux, and it is this dynamic quality of federalism that makes governing difficult.
Those constitutions and political systems that can adapt to change tend to endure for long
periods of time; those that cannot are often discarded into the dustbin of history.
In terms of stability and longevity, the Canadian federal system compares quite favourably
to most other countries. The Canadian federal state has been in existence for 140 years
now; only the United States and Switzerland have had federal governments for longer than
that. Canada has not had any breakdown in its political regime, and there have been few
serious threats to the legitimacy of Canadian government institutions. This is not to say,
however, that Canadian federalism today is the same governmental arrangement
envisioned by John A. Macdonald and the other Fathers of Confederation in 1867! The
Canadian federal system has, of necessity, evolved and responded to new conditions and
political crises.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Centralization and Decentralization
At times, the balance of forces within Confederation has favoured the federal government
in Ottawa—known as periods of centralization. Periods of decentralization refer to those
times in which the power and influence of the provinces have increased relative to those of
the federal government. The literature in Canadian political science identifies several
historical periods in which the federal system has shifted between extreme political
centralization and varying degrees of political decentralization.
Perhaps the best description of the historical evolution of Canadian federalism is found in
the writings of James Mallory. In an often­quoted essay, entitled “The Five Faces of
Federalism,”[1] Mallory identifies four periods of centralization: (1) the Macdonald era (1867
to approximately 1890), when the quasi­federal powers of the federal government were
used quite often; (2) World War I; (3) World War II, when the imperative of defending the
country in time of national emergency made the division of powers virtually meaningless;
and (4) the immediate period following World War II (1945 to about 1960), when federal
spending power was used extensively to erect the Canadian social welfare state.
Periods of decentralization were linked by Mallory to the so­called “provincial rights era”
(1890–1914) and the interwar years (the 1920s and 1930s), when the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council consistently favoured the provinces in its interpretation of the
constitution; and the post­1960 period, when demands for constitutional reform and greater
jurisdictional autonomy emanating from Quebec caused a re­examination of the roles of
both levels of government. Since the publication of the Mallory article, the decentralist trend
in Canadian federalism has continued with little interruption, fuelled by the demands of
Quebec and by the increasingly aggressive actions of some western Canadian provinces,
most notably Alberta and British Columbia.
How far has the current round of political decentralization gone? This situation is almost
impossible to assess, despite the often­made assertion that Canada possesses the most
decentralized federal system in the world. There is no easy way to measure the exact
degree of centralization and decentralization found in a federal state. Economists often look
to tax revenue and government spending as indicators of one government’s dominance
over the other.[2] Constitutional jurisdiction is only meaningful if a government possesses
the funds necessary to fulfil its responsibilities. There are few taxing and spending fields in
which the Canadian federal government possesses exclusivity.[3] Does this fact reveal a
decentralized federal state? Yes, on one level it does, but federalism is a complicated
system that works on many levels simultaneously. Viewing federalism in terms of a giant
pendulum swinging back and forth does not always conform to reality. For example, it is
possible for a government to compensate for a loss of financial autonomy through the use
of its regulatory powers or some other policy instrument. In the end, everything could simply
cancel out. In the study of federalism, nothing is as simple as it appears at first glance!
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Figure 3.1 The Evolution of Canadian Federalism 1867 to the Present
See J. R. Mallory, “The Fives Faces of Federalism,” in J. Peter Meekison, ed., Canadian
Federalism: Myth or Reality, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Methuen, 1971), pp. 55–65.
For an example of an economic analysis of the centralization/decentralization issue,
see T. J. Courchene, Economic Management and the Division of Powers (Studies of
the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for
Canada, #67, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), Chapter 2. For a
discussion of the limitations of measuring the degree of economic decentralization in
a federal state, see R. M. Bird, “Federal Finance in Comparative Perspective,” in
David Conklin, ed., Ottawa and the Provinces: The Distribution of Money and
Power (Toronto: Ontario Economic Council, 1985), pp. 137–177.
G. Stevenson, “The Division of Powers,” in R. D. Olling and M. W. Westmacott, eds.,
Perspectives on Canadian Federalism (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.,
1988), pp. 35–60.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
The Long-term Trend
Venturing opinions on the relative degree of centralization or decentralization in Canada
today can be an extremely imprecise exercise. Predicting the future evolution of Canadian
federalism is almost as foolhardy. Stepping back and using historical hindsight can produce
meaningful observations, however. In Canada’s case the long­term trend is clear (see
Figure 3.1). We are a much more decentralized federation today than when we started out
in 1867. While power has shifted from the federal government to the provinces, and back
again, the balance sheet clearly favours the provinces. John A. Macdonald’s famous
prediction that provincial governments would eventually wither and die has not been
fulfilled. Today, provinces are important and powerful actors in the Canadian federal
What is interesting about the Canadian experience is that it runs directly counter to the
situation in almost all other federal states. During the post­ World War II era the role of the
national government increased considerably in some countries, notably the United States
and Australia. This situation is normally attributed to such factors as the development of
the modern social welfare state, the application of Keynesian economics, a desire to create
a national industrial policy, and the technological revolution in transportation and
communication. But what makes Canada different? What has caused political centralization
throughout the world and political decentralization in our own federal state?
T. O. Heuglin, “Federalism in Comparative Perspective,” in R. D. Olling and M. W.
Westmacott, eds., Perspectives on Canadian Federalism (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall
Canada Inc., 1988), pp. 16–32.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Explanations for Canada’s Evolution
Perhaps the most difficult problem confronting students of Canadian politics is that of
providing an adequate explanation of the long­term attenuation of federal power.
Explanations of the evolution of Canadian federalism fall into four distinct schools of
thought focusing on: aspects of political economy, Canada’s regional character, provincebuilding, and the influence of Quebec nationalism.
Writings in political economy stress the changing nature of the national economy, divisions
within various “class fractions,” and the shifting loyalties of different economic interests. An
example of this class analysis of the evolution of the Canadian federal system is found in
the assigned reading for this unit from the Stevenson text.
The second explanation of the evolution of Canadian federalism is sociological, and relates
to the nature of Canada’s federal society. Here the focus is placed on regionalism and on
the strong identification of Canadian citizens with the particular geographic area in which
they reside. Richard Vernon argues that in a federal system the loyalty of citizens is divided
between two different governments. Should there be a shift in public sentiment,
identifying more with one government than another, then it is possible to envision a loss of
political legitimacy for a particular government and a change in the balance of power within
the federation.
Many observers argue that Canadians possess strong regional attachments. Historian J. M.
S. Careless, for example, has observed that Canadians define themselves primarily in
terms of “limited identities.” According to this view, we see ourselves, first and foremost,
as members of distinct regional and provincial communities united under a federal system
of government. Careless argues that regional sentiments have long held prominence in
Canada (beginning well before Confederation) and today stand at the core of Canadian
national identity. This view coincides closely with former Prime Minister Joe Clark’s famous
description of Canada as a “community of communities.”
During the 1970s, several Canadian political scientists attempted to gather more scientific
evidence concerning the regional orientation of Canadians. They conducted a number of
public opinion surveys in conjunction with the National Election Study of 1974 and, later,
the 1977–79 deliberations of the Task Force on Canadian Unity. Their findings are
extremely interesting. When asked to make a choice about primary identification, an
overwhelming number of those surveyed, outside of Quebec, saw themselves first and
foremost as “Canadians.” Yet, at the same time, the majority of the population (and
particularly those people living in the eastern and western peripheries) revealed a tendency
to see Canada as a composite of distinct regions and provinces, and themselves as
residents of these distinct regions or provinces. When asked to indicate which level of
government felt “closer” and had a greater “effect” on their daily lives, provincial
governments held a clear advantage in all cases except Ontario.
What are we to make of the polling data? Clearly, there is support for the Careless view that
Canadians define themselves in terms of “limited identities.” However, the idea of a region
seems to mean different things to different people. Some people identify with a local
geographic area (e.g., the Niagara region in Ontario), others see their region comprising a
combination of several provinces (e.g., the Canadian West or the Maritimes), and still
others view region and province as synonymous.
It must also be remembered that most of the polling data concerning regional
consciousness was assembled during a single decade. No systematic and scientific
sampling of regional sentiment was carried out before the 1970s and none has taken place
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in the past several years. It is impossible, then, to prove any sort of trend. Did Canadians
think more in regional terms in 1974 than during the Depression or during John A.
Macdonald’s time? Has regional sentiment increased or decreased in the aftermath of the
patriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982? If it has increased, has it been at the
expense of a larger sense of Canadian nationalism? Lacking the appropriate data gathered
across time, it is simply impossible to offer a definitive opinion.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that the data reveals the impact of regionalism
as lacking uniformity across the population. Analysing the results of the 1974 National
Election Study, the team of Clark, Jensen, LeDuc, and Pammett concluded that ”regional
consciousness is highest among Canadians who are young, more highly educated, better
off, English­speaking, from metropolitan areas and smaller cities, upper­middle class in
identification and geographically mobile.” Essentially, regionalism impacts the greatest on
upper­level socioeconomic groups—the country’s political and economic elite—while only
weakly or moderately affecting the mass of the population. The political importance of
regionalism increases when regional consciousness is first linked to a shared sense of
injustice (or historical grievance) and then given shape and focus by provincial political
leaders. According to Richard Simeon, the implications for the federal system can be great:
At the elite level, federalism . . . [confers] leadership on a set of leaders in provincial
governments who have vested interest in maintaining and strengthening the salience of
the regional dimension. The provincial governments do more than just respond to
demands from their populations. First, they respond to some groups more than others;
and, more important, they have, as complex organizations in their own right, certain
bureaucratic needs, especially the need to gain power, to enhance their status, and to
maintain their political support. So, of course, has the federal government. This is the
truth behind the common observation that somehow the interests of the public get lost
in federal­provincial discussions. Thus to maintain support, a provincial government is
motivated to accentuate the degree of internal unity, and to exaggerate the extent of
difference with Ottawa, and to divert political conflict onto an external enemy. They are
likely to stress issues in such a way that their internal divisions are minimized, and to
stress most those issues on which there is least internal disagreement. They are also
less likely to be concerned with the substance of issues, and more likely to be
concerned with those aspects of an issue with the greatest importance for them as
governments. They are less concerned with what is done than with questions like who
does it and who gets credit. One does not need to assume that provincial leaders are
foolish or evil, or that each will pursue the same policies. One simply has to recognize
the importance of certain well­known characteristics of organizational behaviour. In this
sense the interests of a provincial government are quite different conceptually from the
interests of the residents of the province.
R. Vernon, “The Federal Citizen,” in Olling and Westmacott, Perspectives on
Canadian Federalism, pp. 3–15.
J. M. S. Careless, “ ‘Limited Identities’ in Canada,” Canadian Historical Review
50, no. 1 (1969): 1–10.
For a summary and interpretation of the 1974 polling results see H. D. Clarke, J.
Jenson, L. LeDuc, and J. H. Pammett, Political Choice in Canada (Toronto: McGrawHill Ryerson, 1980). Another interesting discussion of regional political attitudes can
be found in Small Worlds: Provinces and Parties in Canadian Political Life, D. J.
Elkins and R. Simeon, eds. (Toronto: Methuen, 1980).
Clarke, Jenson, LeDuc, and Pammett, Political Choice in Canada, p. 37.
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R. Simeon, “Regionalism and Canadian Political Institutions,” in J. Peter
Meekison, ed., Canadian Federalism: Myth or Reality (Toronto: Methuen, 1977), pp.
301–302. Used by permission, Nelson Canada.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
The Province-Building Debate
Simeon’s observations point to the long­standing difficulty of sorting out the interrelationship
between federal government and federal society. In Canada, provincial governments “are
not simply the outgrowth or products of the environment and . . . they are not just
dependent variables in the political system. They can also be seen as independent forces,
which have some effects of their own: once established, they themselves come to shape
and influence the environment.” The end result is the long­term enhancement of
provincial political and bureaucratic competence leading to an increase in the power and
prestige of the “provincial state” and greater federal­provincial competition over the
“legitimization” functions of government. The expansive and manipulative actions of
provincial governments are often cited as a third factor influencing the development of the
Canadian federal system.
In an influential article published in 1977, Alan Cairns introduces a more thorough and
comprehensive discussion of the theory of “province­building” that analyses the interplay of
social and institutional forces within the Canadian federal system. According to Cairns,
the evolution of the Canadian federal system is largely a reflection of a conscious attempt
on the part of provincial political leaders and provincial government bureaucracies to
expand their personal power and prestige at the expense of the federal government in
Ottawa. Not surprisingly given the explanations for Canada’s evolution provided earlier in
this commentary, not all students of Canadian federalism agree with Cairns’s analysis. An
essay published in 1984 by Young, Faucher, and Blais provides a critical review of the
fundamental assumptions underlying the province­building theory and thus stands as an
important counterpoint to Cairns. Even the most appealing explanatory theories need to
be examined carefully and, where necessary, challenged and debated. This is the essence
of academic study.
Federalism and Regionalism
One of the enduring features of the Canadian federal system is its distinct “regions.” The
concept of “region” is less arbitrary than that of a province, in that regions are typically
defined by enduring geographic and sociocultural characteristics. Unfortunately, no
consensus is found within the academic literature as to what variables should be used to
demarcate the boundaries of a region. Geographers differentiate regions on the basis of
physical features, such as landforms, climate, and vegetation. Sociologists define a region
by reference to linguistic and cultural communities. Economists often identify a region with
the existence of major economic growth centres within a nation­state. In political science,
regions are most often defined by the existence of political boundaries.
The regions in the “centre” of the country coincide with provincial boundaries (e.g., Quebec
and Ontario). In the case of the regions beyond the “centre,” the concept of “region”
comprises a clustering of provinces or territories. Although British Columbia has sometimes
been grouped with the Prairie provinces, convincing arguments have been made that its
distinct geographical, social, and economic circumstances warrant that British Columbia be
considered a region unto itself. The same could perhaps be said for Alberta, which has
much less in common with Saskatchewan and Manitoba today than it did fifty or a hundred
years ago.
The notion of “region” is important in discussing Canadian federalism, as tensions between
the subunits in the Canadian federal system increasingly play out along regional lines. The
primary regional tensions are between “the centre” and “the periphery” and between the
predominantly francophone region of Quebec and the anglophone regions of the country.
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The tension between the francophone and anglophone regions of the country is discussed
in Unit 4; the tension between centre and the peripheries is the focus of the remainder of
this unit.
“Atlantic Canada” is an artificial concept since Newfoundland and Labrador (a separate
country until 1949) is quite different from the other three eastern provinces and traditionally
had little contact with them. Nonetheless, all four Atlantic provinces are sparsely populated,
far from major markets, and subject to the vicissitudes of a resource­based economy.
Unlike other parts of Canada, they have received few immigrants in the last hundred years.
The Atlantic provinces concern themselves most with chronically high rates of
unemployment and the region’s lack of economic diversity. However, the capacity of
Atlantic Canada to devise its own economic development strategies is rather limited. The
first assigned reading by Donald Savoie attempts to explain why this is so.
The Savoie article is interesting because of its analytical approach. Working within the
framework of dependency theory, Savoie concludes that the Atlantic region’s heavy
reliance on federal fiscal transfers and bureaucratic expertise has seriously undermined the
ability of provincial governments to take independent action or to challenge federal program
initiatives. The Atlantic region has no provincial economic programs, only federal economic
programs provincially administered. As Savoie notes “federal cost­sharing permeates every
policy field, and every government department and agency concerned with both social and
economic development.”
In the Atlantic region, fiscal, administrative, and political realities dictate a cautious and
pragmatic approach toward dealings with the federal government. As Savoie points out, the
positions adopted by the Atlantic provinces are often contradictory. On the one hand,
political leaders argue that a major reason for the region’s underdevelopment lies with the
discriminatory and poorly formulated policies and programs of the federal government. On
the other hand, the region is profoundly centralist, preferring the maintenance of a strong
central government armed with an array of policy tools and financial resources capable of
alleviating regional economic disparities.
Of course, the recent tendency of Newfoundland and Labrador to chart its own distinct
course in questions of economic development somewhat contradicts Savoie’s dependency
thesis. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, a more aggressive stance in federalprovincial relations appears predicated on only a hope of future economic prosperity.
However, the province remains dependent on federal transfer payments and on federal
funding of the Hibernia oil project. Whether Newfoundland and Labrador will revert to more
traditional forms of intergovernmental behaviour under different political leadership remains
open to question. Note that the term “Atlantic” refers to all four of the eastern provinces;
the term “Maritimes” refers only to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
The reason for this distinction is that Newfoundland and Labrador has a social, cultural, and
economic history that is distinct from the other three provinces.
Like the Atlantic provinces, the four western provinces also form a periphery of Canada.
The economy of western Canada is also primarily resource driven, but, unlike the situation
in the Atlantic region, the western region, particularly Alberta and British Columbia, is
relatively prosperous. Also unlike the Atlantic provinces, provincial governments in the West
have engaged in highly aggressive actions to diversify their own economies and reduce the
influence of the federal government. These efforts are made possible because of provincial
financial surpluses generated from resource rents. Unlike the Atlantic provinces, but like
Quebec, the western provinces have often been governed by parties with labels and
ideologies different from those that have held office at the federal level.
Within western Canada, the government of Alberta is associated with the most
comprehensive provincial economic plan. At the heart of Alberta’s strategy are efforts to
steer the provincial economy away from its dependence on oil and natural gas, to limit the
impact of external forces on the local economy, and to use the ownership of natural
resources to shift economic and political power westward. The other western provinces
have committed themselves to economic strategies comparable in intent to those of
Alberta. They, too, see their salvation in increased provincial control over natural resources
and in the further upgrading of the resource and agricultural sectors within their boundaries.
The assigned reading by Roger Gibbins places the western provinces’ current discontent
with federal economic policy and the rise of western alienation into a wider historical
context. In Gibbins’s view, past federal­provincial disputes over such matters as energy
pricing have eroded the federal government’s legitimacy in the region. This, coupled with
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the economic strength of the West and the failure of intrastate institutions to provide
adequate representation of western interests have contributed to the growing emphasis on
interstate federal institutions.
The second article by Savoie examines the historical evolution of regional development in
Canada. While neither level of government is specifically charged with the responsibility of
decreasing regional disparities, the federal government has taken the lead in this highly
complex policy area. Savoie argues that federal fiscal restraint coupled with a global
economy will result in increasing regional fragmentation and decentralization. As the key
areas of education and infrastructure are provincial responsibility, differing provincial fiscal
capacity will thus result in further regional inequities.
It is clear that political leaders in Canada cannot ignore regional issues. The fragmentation
of the political party system in the 1990s is but one legacy of the regional tensions in the
Canadian federal system. Some observers go so far as to warn that the increasing
balkanization of Canada will lend support to separatist movements that will lead to the
disintegration of the country. These movements toward self­determination are the subject of
the next two units.
[1] Simeon, “Regionalism and Canadian Political Institutions,” p. 297.
[2] A. C. Cairns, “The Governments and Societies of Canadian Federalism,” Canadian
Journal of Political Science 10: 4 (1977): 695–725.
[3] R. A. Young, P. Faucher, and A. Blais, “The Concept of Province-Building: A
Critique,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 17: 4 (1984): 783–818.
[4] D. J. Savoie, “The Atlantic Region: The Politics of Dependency,” in Olling and
Westmacott, Perspectives on Canadian Federalism, p. 296.
[5] For an updated discussion of Newfoundland’s relations with Ottawa and the other
provinces, see D. M. Brown, “Sea-Change in Newfoundland: From Peckford to Wells,”
in R. L. Watts and D. M. Brown, eds., Canada: The State of the Federation 1990
(Kingston: Queen’s University, Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, 1990), pp.
[6] For a discussion of Alberta’s economic development strategy, see J. Richards and
L. Pratt, Prairie Capitalism: Power and Influence in the New West (Toronto:
McClelland and Stewart, 1979), especially chapter 9.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Notes on Terms
accumulative function: A term coined by American political economist James O’Connor
(and used by Savoie and Stevenson) to describe government policies, actions, or both, that
directly contribute to the accumulation of private sector (i.e., business) profits.
attenuate: This term is often associated with D. V. Smiley’s writings on the changing
balance of power within Confederation. Simply put, “attenuate” means to reduce, weaken,
or minimize the power and status of one level of government for the benefit of another.
balkanize: A term used to describe the degeneration of a country into a group of hostile and
warring political units without any sense of common purpose. Critics of political
decentralization often warn of the inevitable “balkanization” of the country and the potential
break­up of the Canadian federal system.
bourgeoisie: A term used in political economy to refer to the upper classes, particularly
those who control or manage large business enterprises.
branch plant: A business that is a subsidiary of a foreign­owned corporation. For example,
Ford Canada is a branch plant of its American­based parent corporation.
centrifugal forces: Those events and activities that promote political decentralization in a
federal state.
centripetal forces: Those events and activities that promote political centralization in a
federal state.
cleavage: A political science term for a division within society producing long­ term political
conflict. In Canada, the most important cultural cleavage is the division between Englishand French­speaking Canadians. Stevenson uses the term to help explain different class
factions and the different interests of the Canadian manufacturing, agricultural, and
resource sectors.
comprador faction: A term used in political economy to refer to the people who manage and
operate the branch plants of foreign multinational corporations.
dependency: The term “dependency” is often used to explain the underdevelopment of the
Atlantic region. Radical political economists and neoclassical economists use the term
differently, however. Political economists, such as Ralph Matthews, see dependency as
synonymous with the systematic exploitation of one region of the country by another. This
behaviour is considered to be in the interest of the dominant capitalist class. Neoclassical
economists, such as Thomas Courchene, view dependency in terms of the over­reliance of
slow­growth areas on government largesse. In this view, dependency is considered
contradictory to free market economics and a form of economic inefficiency.
elite: Elites are small groups of people who exercise power in a society. On one level, an
elite can be defined as those people who possess decision­making authority or power.
Members of parliament, for example, are part of Canada’s political elite. Similarly, the
presidents and chief executive officers of major corporations constitute Canada’s economic
elite. One can also speak of religious, military, bureaucratic, cultural, or academic elites.
federal society: A society in which group diversity is territorially based. See the commentary
for Unit 1.
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hinterland: An economic and geographic term for an outlying area that provides resources
to a metropolitan centre. In Canada, the western and Atlantic regions can be considered
economic hinterlands of Ontario and Quebec. Hinterland status can lead to feelings of
exploitation, and to manifestations of political alienation.
legitimization function: A term used in political economy to refer to government policies,
actions, or both, which seek to reinforce the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of the
population. Legitimization functions may involve the provision of social welfare services to
the public, or the regulation and restriction of business activities in order to support some
common public good. In the Canadian federal system, policies that seek to enhance state
legitimacy have led to government expansion, the duplication of services, and intense
political competition between the federal government and the provinces. The idea of
legitimization is tied directly to the concept of province building.
National Policy: A set of interrelated policies enacted by the government of John A.
Macdonald in order to increase Canadian economic prosperity and maintain Canada’s
independence from the United States. These policies included western territorial
expansion, the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the encouragement of immigration
and settlement of the West, the creation of a wheat economy, and the erection of a tariff
wall around Canada.
neoclassical economics: An economic approach (consistent with liberal economic thought)
which holds that economic decisions should only be made according to demands of the
free market. Neoclassical economists believe all forms of government intervention are
unnatural and result in economic inefficiency.
political economy: The study of the relationship between politics and economics. One noted
political economist, Robert Gilpin, offers this perspective on the relationship:
On the one hand, politics largely determines the framework of economic activity and
channels it in directions intended to serve the interests of dominant groups; the exercise of
power in all its forms is a major determinant of the nature of an economic system.
On the other hand, the economic process itself tends to redistribute power and wealth, it
transforms the power relationships among groups. This in turn leads to a transformation
of the political system, thereby giving rise to a new structure of economic relationships.
region: A region is a homogeneous area with physical and cultural characteristics distinct
from those of neighbouring areas.
regionalism: Regionalism refers to personal identification with a particular region; in other
words, a perception of belonging to a region, or a sense of regional consciousness among
the general population or certain sections of the population.
Triple E Senate: A proposal for Senate reform advocated by the government of Alberta and
popular throughout western Canada. The “Triple E” proposal calls for an elected Senate,
with equal representation from each province, and with effective powers.
western alienation: Western alienation is best seen as a political ideology of regional
discontent. Western alienation encompasses a sense of historical grievance against the
perceived exploitation of the West by Central Canada. It also involves a sense of isolation
or estrangement from the centres of economic and political power, and a belief that the
West is systematically ignored in national decision­making. Western alienation has been
manifested in different ways at different times. During the 1920s and 1930s regional
discontent was expressed in the formation of a number of western­based protest parties,
such as the Progressives. During the 1970s, strong and aggressive provincial governments
became the outlet for western alienation. During the 1980s, western alienation provided the
impetus for the formation of the Reform Party, which later became the Canadian Alliance,
and then merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form a new Conservative Party.
R. Gilpin, US Power and the Multinational Corporation: The Political Power of
Foreign Direct Investment (New York: Basic Books, 1975), pp. 21–22.
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Unit 3 Regionalism and ProvinceBuilding
Study Questions
When you have read the assigned reading and the commentary, test your understanding of
the material by answering the following study questions. You will find it helpful to write out
your answers in full sentences or a brief paragraph. If you have difficulty, review the
relevant material. If you still cannot answer the question, please contact your tutor for
1. a. What has been the general trend in the evolution of Canadian federalism?
b. How does the Canadian trend differ from that of most other federal states?
Garth Stevenson—“The Political Economy of Decentralization”
2. How does the study of Canada’s political economy explain the changing balance of
power within Confederation? (Stevenson)
3. What assumptions about government and society form the basis for Stevenson’s political
economy perspective? (Stevenson)
4. Which Canadian province began the process of “province­building”? (Stevenson)
5. a. What political and economic forces were unleashed by Macdonald’s National Policy?
b. How did the National Policy affect the role and behaviour of provincial governments?
6. How did the Great Depression of the 1930s change the political economy of Canadian
federalism? (Stevenson)
7. How did World War II alter the institutional loyalty of different “class fractions”? Which
level of government became the net beneficiary of these changes? (Stevenson)
8. How did the post­war integration of the Canadian and American economies influence the
evolution of Canadian federalism? (Stevenson)
9. What accounts for the revival of “centripetal forces” within Confederation during the late
1970s and early 1980s? (Stevenson)
Savoie—“The Atlantic Region: The Politics of Dependency”
10. What is dependency theory? Provide examples of how it is used to explain
underdevelopment in Atlantic Canada. (Savoie)
11. What is the neoclassical understanding of why there is underdevelopment in Atlantic
Canada? (Savoie)
12. What are the critiques of both the dependency and neoclassical theories of economic
underdevelopment? (Savoie)
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13. What difficulties do the Atlantic provinces face in designing and implementing economic
policies independently from the federal government? (Savoie)
14. Given its economic problems, what explanations are given as to why the Maritimes are
not fertile ground for radical politics? (Savoie)
15. What accounts for the different approach to federal­provincial relations adopted by
Newfoundland and Labrador? (Commentary; Savoie)
Savoie: “Regional Development: A Policy for All Seasons”
16. What purpose and what problems were associated with the variety of regional
development initiatives undertaken in the post­war years? Write the programs out as a
table, with the name of the initiative, its purpose, and the problems it ran into. (Savoie)
17. Why does regional development require close federal­provincial cooperation? (Savoie)
18. How will globalization affect regionalism in Canada? (Savoie)

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