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The Regional Veto Formula and Its Effects on Canada's Constitutional Amendment Process*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2009

Andrew Heard
Affiliation:
Simon Fraser University
Tim Swartz
Affiliation:
Simon Fraser University

Abstract

In early 1996, Canada's federal government enacted a new constitutional amending process to provide provincial and regional vetoes over future amendments. This study compares the new process with the “7 and 50” formula found in the Constitution Act, 1982. Using the Banzhaf Index as well as separate measures for the power to prevent and the power to initiate amendments, the article examines the relative influence of the provinces under the two amending formulae. As well, it examines the relative voting power of each province's citizens in any future constitutional referendum. The results show that profound changes are produced by the regional veto amending formula, and the article discusses some remedies for the most negative effects.

Résumé

Au début de 1996, le gouvernement fédéral canadien a promulgué un loi qui fournit un nouveau processus pour l'amendement de la Constitution. Cette étude analyse le nouveau système de vétos régionaux et provinciaux et le compare au processus « 7 et 50 » décrit dans La loi constitutionnelle, 1982. Se servant de l'indice Banzhaf et des mesures du pouvoir d'empêcher et du pouvoir d'amorcer des amendements, cet article analyse l'influence relative des provinces en fonction des deux formules d'amendement. Cette étude examine aussi le pouvoir relatif des électeurs de chaque province dans un futur référendum sur la Constitution. Les résultats démontrent que la formule de vétos régionaux produit des conséquences profondes, et l'article discute certaines façons de remédier aux effets les plus négatifs.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 1997

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References

1 Statutes of Canada, 1996, chap. 1.

2 Benoît Pelletier argued before the Senate committee studying Bill C-110 that there would be no legal sanction if the Constitutional Amendments Act were disregarded by a minister, as he felt no court would invalidate a resolution that had been introduced in contradiction to the Act. See Senate Special Committee on Bill C-110, Proceedings, January 22, 1996, 9495.Google Scholar While this may be so, any minister who introduced a resolution without the provincial consent required under the Act would be personally responsible. Section 126(1) of the Criminal Code creates a summary offence for doing anything forbidden by an Act of Parliament that does not otherwise have a penalty.

3 Kilgour, Marc, “A Formal Analysis of the Amending Formula of Canada's Constitution Act, 1982,” this Journal 16 (1983), 771–77Google Scholar; and Kilgour, D. Marc and Levesque, Terrence J., “The Canadian Constitutional Amending Formula: Bargaining in the Past and the Future,” Public Choice 44 (1984), 457–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 Levesque, Terrence J. and Moore, James W., “Citizen and Provincial Power under Alternative Amending Formulae: An Extension of Kilgour's Analysis,” this Journal 17 (1984), 157–66Google Scholar; Kilgour, D. Marc and Levesque, Terrence J., “The Choice of a Permanent Amending Formula for Canada's Constitution,” Canadian Public Policy 10 (1984), 359–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mintz, Eric, “Changing Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula: A Comment,” Canadian Public Policy 11 (1985), 623–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mintz, Eric, “Banzhaf's Power Index and Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula: A Comment on Kilgour's Analysis,” this Journal 18 (1985), 385–87Google Scholar; and Kilgour, D. Marc, “A Reply: Distributing the Power to Amend Canada's Constitution,” this Journal 18 (1985), 389–96.Google Scholar

5 Flanagan, Thomas, “Amending the Canadian Constitution: A Mathematical Analysis,” Constitutional Forum 7 (1996), 97101.Google Scholar

6 Kilgour, “A Formal Analysis of the Amending Formula”; Levesque and Moore, “Citizen and Provincial Power”; and Mintz, “Banzhaf's Power Index.”

7 Constitutional Amendment Approval Act, R.S.B.C, c. 62.5; Constitutional Referendum Act, R.S.A., c. C-22.25.

8 For example, see Minister of Justice Allan Rock's testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Bill C-110, Proceedings, No. 1, January 22, 1996, 27.Google Scholar

9 Flanagan's examination of the regional veto formula did not include any individual-level analysis (see Flanagan, “Amending the Canadian Constitution”).

10 Scaled measures were used by Kilgour, “A Formal Analysis of the Amending Formula”; Levesque and Moore, “Citizen and Provincial Power”; Mintz, “Banzhaf's Power Index”; and Kilgour, “A Reply.” Absolute measures were employed by Kilgour and Levesque, “The Choice of a Permanent Amending Formula”; Mintz, “Changing Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula”; and Flanagan, “Amending the Canadian Constitution.”

11 Mintz, “Changing Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula”; and Flanagan, “Amending the Canadian Constitution.”

12 Mintz, “Changing Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula,” 623, emphasis added.

13 It should be noted that all of these measures employed here rely upon the assumption that every combination of provinces is equally likely.

14 Another approach is outlined in Felsenthal, Dan S. and Machover, Moshe, “Postulates and Paradoxes of Relative Voting Power: A Critical Appraisal,” Theory and Game Decision 38 (1995), 195229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

15 Canada, House of Commons, Debates, November 30, 1995Google Scholar, 17002.

16 The assumptions required in the calculation of IPP are found in Levesque and Moore, “Citizen and Provincial Power.” To derive the formula for IPP, it is noted that for a province with population p the probability that the reversal of an individual's vote would cause its provincial referendum to fail is given by This probability is then approximated by using Stirling's formula.

17 Mintz, “Changing Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula”; and Mintz, “Banzhaf's Power Index.”

18 Contrary to Mintz (ibid).

19 Kilgour, “A Formal Analysis of the Amending Formula,” 773.

20 The value of distinguishing between the power to prevent and the power to initiate is reinforced by separate calculations of the values in Table 2 for two cases: with and without the Parliament. While the values for the power to prevent for the provinces are unchanged with the inclusion of Parliament, the values for the provinces’ power to initiate are roughly cut in half. This is an important finding, since it underlines the necessity of analyzing the relative powers of the provinces within the practical context of Parliament's participation in the process of constitutional approval.

21 “Maritime Provinces Agree to Share Veto with PEI,” Montreal Gazette, January 4, 1996, A8.

22 Kilgour and Levesque, “The Choice of a Permanent Amending Formula.”

23 Mintz, “Changing Canada's Constitutional Amending Formula,” 624; and Flanagan, “Amending the Canadian Constitution,” 100.

24 Kilgour, “A Formal Analysis of the Amending Formula”; and Mintz, “Banzhaf's Power Index.”

25 Under the maritime provinces’ informal agreement, Islanders’ power to prevent becomes 54 × 10−5 and their power to initiate is 1.31 × 10−5. Newfoundlanders’ values drop to 0 in both measures.

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