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  • Cited by 13
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: July 2009

5 - Changing with the Times: Success, Failure, and Inertia in Canadian Federal Arrangements, 1945–2002


Canada is one of the oldest and, from most perspectives, one of the most successful federal countries in the world. But success has not come easily. Over the 135 years of its existence, Canada has changed in many ways. As the decades rolled by, its territory expanded greatly, the number of provinces (and territories) included in the union grew, its degree of political independence from Britain increased, and, from 1976 to 1985 and from 1994 to 2003, a political party whose explicit objective is separation of one of its provinces gained control of a major province while at the same time Canada's degree of economic dependence on the United States rose to new levels. These and other major changes in the nature of both the country and its environment have required equally major changes in the institutions of Canadian federalism. The union continues to endure, but not without a good deal of effort and not without continuing pressures and strains.

We examine three aspects of Canada's federal arrangements over the past half century. The marked change that has taken place in the sharing of the personal income tax between the federal and the provincial governments is a success story: Successful changes were gradually made over time to accommodate new economic and political circumstances. The unsuccessful attempt to amend the Constitution Act of 1982 to satisfy the demands of Québec, the majority francophone province in Canada, was a failure in spite of great political effort.

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