Tag Archives: deep federalism


A couple of months ago, I told the extraordinary story of how a local government tore up the federalism rule book and initiated a very promising tri-level government program for getting welfare recipients placed in good jobs. In this entry, I’d like to reflect on a curious aspect of that story that I didn’t stress in my other account: The program was a conspicuous success in its first year, but the federal government cut it even though it had actually made money on it.

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In Canada, the mention of federalism generally puts us in mind of federal government initiatives that are carried out in co-operation with provincial and territorial governments. Sometimes provincial initiative is also a factor, especially in recent years, since the creation of the Council of the Federation, an association of provincial and territorial premiers that aims “to play a leadership role in revitalizing the Canadian federation and building a more constructive and cooperative federal system.”
We are less likely to think in terms of municipal or community initiative, but community initiative in intergovernmental relations is a current reality, in fact one that has been with us for some time, though it remains an exception to the rule of top-down government. In the late 1960s, in the most epic of Canada’s battles over plans for urban expressways, citizens opposing the Spadina Expressway made a strategic decision to bypass Metropolitan Toronto Council and take their case to the Ontario Municipal Board and the provincial cabinet, and it was the cabinet that gave them their victory.

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