Federalism and Constitution

Week 7

Class coordinators

Kristan Chung, Elizabeth Han


A constitution is like the software that runs a government – part of the political infrastructure that enables governments to respond to new challenges. We will look at the elements of constitutions and the evolution of the Canadian constitution, before and since the 1982 Canada Act. Parallel with the evolution of constitutional conventions, the Canadian federation has meandered through an S-bend of decentralization, recentralization, and decentralization again, defined primarily by the forms and expectations of transfers. After a period of non-engagement, intergovernmental affairs are once again active through the Council of the Federation.

Learning objectives

Understand what defines a federal system, what constitutes centralizing and decentralizing tendencies, what the Canadian constitution consists of and how it is changed.

Key terms: Constitution (Purposes; Components; Written / Unwritten); Amending Formulae, Federalism, Grants (Block / Conditional), Rowell-Sirois Commission, Equalization Payments, centralized and decentralized federalism

Required reading

  • Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapter 17
  • Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapter 18


Weekly activities can be adjusted by class coordinators in consultation with the professor
Week 7 checklist of material

[1] Introduction from class coordinator – time allocation
[2] Current events of political significance (domestic, international) [60s]
[3] Review/amend focus of learning objectives [5D]
[4] Key terms [5D, GLI]
[5] Critical Approaches and Studying Politics [5D, GLI]
[6] External resources [class coordinator]
[7] Exam questions [5D, GLI]
[8] Looking ahead: next week’s class coordinator introduces (last 15 minutes)

In the news…

Inuit, First Nations, and Métis engagement in the First Ministers’ conference, coming up on 3 October.
CBC’s the House: The week in National Politics – marijuana regulatory and sales regimes begin to take shape.

Next up

The fourth major function of government, administration or public service, also known as bureaucracy, will offer choices of focus within DND or on the wider civil service, or on some of the specific changes brought about during the last government, and now (in the guise of unamended rule sets) shaping the actions of the current government (think Treasury Board guidelines). “Deliverology” is another hot topic that we might explore in some detail – how do governments actually get things done?  Class coordinators for weeks 8 and 9 should discuss the fuzzy boundaries between these two topics (public service and policy).