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Studies on the Canadian Constitution and Canadian Federalism


Last revised:
19 February 2001


Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College

Vague formula under which various constitutional reforms have been proposed. Decentralists argue that Canada has become, since the Depression, far too centralized, that powers, constitutional and financial, have been too concentrated in the hands of the federal government and bureaucracy and that, as a result, Ottawa has been less and less responsive to local needs and aspirations. The supporters of decentralization are now found in all parts of Canada although they have especially been prominent in Quebec.

The fundamental basis for the argument of decentralizing powers in Canada is that Ottawa adopts policies which may do some good for the nation as a whole (many have argued that, in practice, this has too often meant Ontario) but might do considerable harm to some specific regions or provinces. Author Yves Rabaud has argued that Canadian fiscal and monetary policies are such that when indicators signal that the economy of Canada is overheating [that is likely because the economy of Ontario is overheating] and that the federal government applies the necessary breaks, the economies of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces have barely begun to recover from the last recession.

The proponents of decentralization vary in their propositions from purely administrative decentralization to a genuine reshaping of Confederation by putting more power, and financial resources, in the hands of the provincial governments. Decentralization is rather popular in Canada presently.

© 2001 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College